Crisis hits South African Police top leadership

JOVIAL RANTAO

TWO of the most powerful men in the South African Police Service – the national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole and Minister of Police Bheki Cele, the political head of the force – are on a collision course over the suspension of top police officers implicated in the purchase of personal protective equipment.

At the heart of the dispute between Sitole and Cele was the decision of the national commissioner to suspend three generals. On December 1, Cele wrote to Sitole instructing him to halt the suspensions until his office had received a final report on alleged PPE tender regularities from Inspector-General of Intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe.

The African Mirror understands that Sitole sought legal advice before he communicated his decision to go ahead with the suspensions to Cele.

In his response to Cele, Sitole emphasised that he, as the accounting officer of the SAPS, had legal duty to act on allegations of financial misconduct.

He clarified that the disciplinary steps against the generals were separate and independent from the investigation conducted by Dintwe.

“While I do appreciate the Honorable Minister’s intervention… I must with respect and humility indicate to the Minister that as the Accounting Officer of the SAPS, I have checked the facts and the law on the matter with the aim of executing the Honourable Minister’s directive, and found it is not within my powers to hold the matter in abeyance.”

The generals who were suspended yesterday are Major-General Josias Lekalakala,  head of covert intelligence collection with the SAPS Crime Intelligence Unit, Brigadier Lombard,  head of intelligence planning and monitoring and two colonels.

Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, who on November 30 was served with a notice of intention to suspend him, is on sick leave. He has responded to the  intention to suspend him with strong accusations against Sitole, indicative of a possible breakdown in the relationship between the two.

In his representations, Jacobs blamed Sitole for the leak of his intended suspension to the media and called for an independent disciplinary process.

“I thus hold the National Commissioner, having failed to ensure the sanctity of the process personally responsible for the said breach of confidentiality and protocol and I consequently considering legal action.  In the light of the unscrupulous leaks, the breach of confidentiality and the resultant harm incurred, and the lack of impartiality, I hereby submit that this whole DR (SAPS Disciplinary Regulations ) should be handled by an independent party and not the national commissioner or his office,” Jacobs wrote.

He said the charges against him were without merit. He said the “real” for his possible suspension include:

  • Disputes around the purchase of technical systems for R560-million.
  • The number of disciplinary steps he instituted against senior crime  intelligence officials for corruption, fraud and theft of the Secret Service Account.
  • Investigations into the SAPS procurement PPEs amounting R1-billion, which have identified the beneficiaries.

“I fear that bias and ulterior motives might negatively  impact on objectivity. I hereby submit that this DR matter  be handled independently other than yourself and the SAPS organisation,” Jacobs said in a response seen by The African Mirror.

Jacobs is expected to face a separate disciplinary process in connection with his alleged failure to act on information about the death threats on Colonel Charl Kinnear, who was shot dead on September 18.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo had not responded to questions from The African Mirror at the time of publication. We will publish his response once it has been received. Previously, he declined to comment on suspensions as they were internal human resource matters. 

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