By Marianne Thamm (Source: Daily Maverick)
The suspension of the entire top chain of command of SAPS Crime Intelligence on Thursday, 10 December 2020, means the division now falls under deputy national commissioner: crime detection, Lieutenant-General Sindile Mfazi.
Minister of police, Bheki Cele, has been pitted against SAPS national commissioner, Khehla Sitole, with regard to several suspensions that have rocked the powerful crime intelligence division.
Daily Maverick is in the process of confirming the suspensions of CI’s head of covert intelligence collection, Major-General Josias Lekalakala, intelligence planning and monitoring head, Brigadier Deon Lombard, and Colonels Waljee, Gopal and Matamenla on Thursday, 10 December 2020.
SAPS spokesperson Vish Naidoo said the matter was an internal one that could not be discussed in public.
Commissioner Sitole’s suspensions appear to be in defiance of an instruction communicated from Cele to Sitole, ordering him to stop all suspensions until the minister’s office had received a final report on alleged PPE tender irregularities from Inspector-General of Intelligence, Setlhomamaru Dintwe.
On 1 December, Cele wrote to Sitole reminding him that in terms of the Intelligence Services Act, Dintwe was required to submit a report into alleged PPE irregularities to his office – and not that of the national commissioner.
Dintwe had been tipped off about matters relating to the CI secret services account and had conducted an investigation.
It is a result of this investigation, leaked to Sunday World, after the top secret document had been sent to the national commissioner’s office, that procedures to suspend crime intelligence head Peter Jacobs and fellow officers were instituted by Sitole.
“Until such time that I have been furnished with a report by the Inspector-General of Intelligence, you are herewith directed to place all investigations and intended suspensions in abeyance,” ordered Cele.
However, Sitole, responding on 4 December to Cele’s letter, protested that the Public Finance Management Act “enjoins me as the Accounting Officer of the SAPS to act on allegations of financial misconduct which motivated the disciplinary action that was taken in this instance”.
He said Dintwe’s office itself had been of the view that the preliminary findings of his report “should be brought to my attention”.
Sitole argued that the disciplinary procedures that were initiated “in this instance is a separate and independent process from the IG’s duty to submit a report to the Minister”.
Until such time as Dintwe submitted his final report to Cele, Sitole said, he was going ahead with the suspensions.
“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.”
Sindile Mfazi, in a virtual meeting with officials on 1 December, announced that he was “taking responsibility” for the day-to-day operations of the crime intelligence division, including the secret services account, until current head Lieutenant General Peter Jacobs’ expected return from sick leave on 18 December.
Jacobs is expected to be formally served his notice of suspension then.
“Every communication that is being done within the division of Crime Intelligence both internally and externally will be done through my office,” said Mfazi.
Mfazi said he had called the meeting to reassure officials that “there is no crisis in CI”.
The suspensions relate to an emergency PPE tender signed off during the Covid-19 lockdown, and in line with Treasury’s note on emergency procurement.
On 3 December, Jacobs responded to Sitole, accusing Mfazi of seeking to “redesign the structure so that Crime Intelligence reports to Provincial Commissioners directly, thus reducing the authority and power of the Divisional Commissioner”.
He said the ill-defined charges as set out in Sitole’s notice of intention to suspend, and delivered to Jacobs on Monday, 30 November, are part of a campaign to sideline him.
Jacobs added that he had instigated investigations into various crime intelligence members, and had also managed to alert the organisation “of the disputes inherent” in an intended R560-million payment by SAPS to Keith Keating’s controversial Forensic Data Analysts for IT systems.
He also said “the number of disciplinary cases I instituted against Senior Crime Intelligence Officials for corruption fraud and theft of the Secret Services Account (SSA) is the real reason for my impending suspension and DR charges”.
Jacobs accused Mfazi, who was the former acting provincial commissioner in the Western Cape, of workplace bullying and of threatening him.
The CI divisional commissioner set out how he had reported this, as well as the existence of rogue officials in the Western Cape crime intelligence unit, to Sitole as far back as 2018 but “nothing was done on both sets of complaints”.
“The allegations I made [about a rogue element in CI], if proved to be true, are so serious and far reaching,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs, in his challenge to his suspension, has asked that Sitole recuse himself from the disciplinary process and that the allegations against him [Jacobs] “be investigated by an external independent party”.
The crime intelligence head also pointed out the irregularity of suspending an employee pending an inquiry, saying this was “equivalent to an arrest”.
This method should only be used, he said, “when there is reasonable apprehension that the employee will interfere with investigations or pose some other threat”.
Jacobs said he had cooperated with the office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence, the DPCI and the SIU. DM