SUSPENSION AND A CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AGAINST THE NATIONAL COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, GENERAL KHEHLA SITOLE
IPUSA has raised concerns before about the fitness for office of General Sitole as National Commissioner of Police. It is hoped this time South Africans and hardworking members of the Service will see action. Issues currently unfolding in the public domain and those put before the Union by its members call into question the continued leadership of the police by General Sitole. IPUSA would be failing in its duty towards all South Africans, all SAPS employees and its members were it to remain silent to this crisis of leadership.
IPUSA would submit that the issues it seeks to flag put into question the continued leadership of the current National Police Commissioner. IPUSA need not, at this stage, allude to the manner in which he was appointed. IPUSA is of the view that was a hurried process lacking transparency and contrary to the NDP. IPUSA will revisit this particular topic in a separate but more elaborate submission.
IPUSA intends to point out a few matters that in its view sufficiently justify the call it is making. Further, in doing this IPUSA reserves its right and position to add, supplement and to package an even more elaborate submission before the Minister of Police and the President, calling for an even broader inquiry into matters of policing in this country. The inquiry in mind, in this context, would be one akin to the one that recently probed matters of the State Security Agency. At this point IPUSA might as well opine that the recent position taken by the National Commissioner, in parliament, on matters of crime intelligence as being “not captured” must be taken with a pinch of salt. IPUSA is of the view that a clean-up process of that environment and the entire Police Service will have to be a lot similar to that employed by the President with respect to the State Security Agency. This is another topic to be revisited in the separate submission already alluded to above. The point however is that the shallow response of the National Commissioner on a matter of such seriousness points to his unfitness to be entrusted with the security of citizens of this country. The type of answer he gave cannot deny the reality of years of crisis in that environment to the detriment of the safety of South Africans. As stated above, this is a matter to be tackled in a far more elaborative submission addressing itself to the general state of policing in South Africa.
It is now public knowledge that in the latest criminal matter of alleged flouting of the PFMA by General Phahlane, presumably as the then Accounting Officer, his publicly stated version was that he was not the Accounting Officer at the relevant time. This matter is actually related to the alleged fraud charges of Generals Deliwe De Lange, Ramahlape Mokwena, Nombhuruza Napo and Brigadier Ramajalum for which they appeared in court on 7 November 2018. IPUSA calls for a proper investigation of this matter as it and the public can infer from what is in the public domain that either General Mothiba (who was acting as National commissioner after Phahlane) or General Sitole knew or ought to have known of these allegations, the latter having assumed the position of National Commissioner in November 2017.The question then would be, why is neither of these officers an accused person together with the officers mentioned above as they were Accounting Officers at different times , from as far back as June 2017. IPUSA calls for a proper investigation of this matter as, at this point, if there was non-reporting of irregular expenditure, as required by law, if facts exclude Phahlane the finger would then point at either of Generals Mothiba and Sitole.
Generals Phahlane, Ramahlape Mokwena, Nomburhuza Napo are sitting at home earning a salary without delivering any value for the SAPS as General Sitole has unlawfully and negligently failed to ensure finalisation of their disciplinary processes. The disciplinary process against General Phahlane has not finalised and he has been sitting at home since June 2017. A Lieutenant General Adeline Shezi of Forensic Services, an environment that General Phahlane managed, is also sitting at home for months now. No hearing has commenced against Generals Mokwena, Napo and Brigadier Ramajalum despite them being suspended in November 2018. This means that all these officers are now supposed to be back at work as there is no legal process that allows the continued non-utilisation of their services. At the present moment all these officers are on what is, called “special leave “, an unlawful and expensive practice prohibited in the public service. Generals Phahlane, Shezi and Mokwena are Divisional Commissioners, a rank equivalent to Deputy-Director General in the broader public service. Major General Napo carries a rank equivalent to that of a Chief Director in the broader public service whilst Brigadier Ramajalum that of Director. All these officers are at rank levels that command high authority and high earnings. At this present moment therefore General Sitole is guilty of allowing wasteful and fruitless expenditure in a situation where the police budget is already stretched, not to mention bringing the police service into disrepute. IPUSA calls for investigation of this serious maladministration in the police service.
The handling of the exit of Lieutenant General Deliwe De Lange raises serious concern. General Sitole seems to have been on some concerted agenda to get rid of General De Lange for reasons best known to himself. IPUSA is taking this position because reasons that may have been articulated by SAPS for De Lange’s exit remain unlawful and misleading to the public, despite what may have been communicated on behalf of Sitole. AS far back as June 2018, General Sitole attempted to exit a seemingly unwilling General De Lange via section 35 of the SA Police Service Act 1995. Section 35 is not a process to be actioned at the instance of an employee and further has three (3) relevant triggering elements; namely, redundancy, interest of the service or appointment to public office. At the time, IPUSA legally challenged General Sitole as General De Lange’s situation did not fall into the three (3) relevant elements mentioned above. In short, Sithole was unlawfully and desperately utilising this legal provision to get rid of General De Lange at heavy public expense by offering her the so-called “golden hand shake”, instead of utilising whatever relevant human resource process to deal with whatever was bothering him about General De Lange. General Sitole backed down to the IPUSA challenge. To IPUSA’s and all South Africa’s surprise, on 1 November 2018 SAPS announced that General De Lange had “retired”. The real story however is that General De Lange was offered a section 35 discharge. General Sitole therefore acted unlawfully and also deliberately and misleadingly withheld the real facts being that General De Lange had been offered a section 35 discharge not “retirement”. IPUSA holds the view that General De Lange’s situation still did not raise circumstances warranting this type of exit and thus Sitole acted unlawfully in invoking this provision to exit General De Lange. Parliament, via the Police Portfolio Committee, has consistently been critical of the abuse of this provision in SAPS. This attitude is in line with interests of the South African tax payer and good governance in the police. General Sitole has failed on this score and IPUSA calls for a serious investigation of this matter.
The handling of the public spat between General Sitole and IPID on the matter of “classified” documents that General Sitole is refusing to declassify raises serious concern to IPUSA and the general public. It should be noted that General Sitole, other senior officers and a government official are themselves alleged suspects in this matter of alleged corruption involving an amount of about R45Million. It should also be noted that in terms of the relevant regulatory framework the power to declassify documents sits with the Director-General, in this instance Sitole himself. It should further be noted that the law, universally, frowns upon the principle of classification of documents for purposes of hiding or concealing corruption. It is therefore most disconcerting to note therefore that an alleged suspect in an alleged investigation of corruption is utilising powers ordinarily conferred on him by virtue of the office he holds to frustrate an investigation that affects him personally. If this is not an extreme case of being a judge and jury in one’s own case, nothing can be. If this is not a compelling reason to suspend General Sithole pending an inquiry, nothing can be. It is essential that he and all implicated senior officers be suspended to enable a neutral Acting National Commissioner to make the call on this matter. A broader, fair and transparent investigation of this matter is impossible with General Sitole and all allegedly implicated officers still sitting in their offices. This investigation alludes to an intention to unlawfully misappropriate millions in public money to be utilised unlawfully for a political purpose. To allow General Sitole to utilise public money to frustrate an investigation through legal gymnastics that seek to frustrate public scrutiny into this kind of matter cannot be allowed in a democracy like ours. IPUSA calls for decisive and transparent action on this matter. The courts of the land cannot be abused by being utilised as means and ways of delaying what could well be legitimate investigations.
Strictly speaking, what is alleged against General Sitole and others in the alleged R45million corruption matter also qualifies to be treated as workplace misconduct. The hand of the Minister and the President to investigate this as such cannot be held back nor be frustrated by the legal gymnastics that General Sitole seeks to employ in the courts. At the end of the day if the alleged conduct of the alleged suspects was above board what is there to hide? What interest could supersede the public scrutiny of what could have happened to about R45million of tax payer’s money? IPUSA submits that the Minister and the President cannot allow an alleged suspect in an alleged R45million of public money corruption case, who is a National Commissioner of Police to be in control of the twists and turns of an investigation in which he himself is an alleged suspect. Section 8 of the SAPS Act can be invoked to suspend the National Commissioner so that all investigations are done fairly, transparently and without interference from alleged suspects. The other alleged suspects can be dealt with through human resource prescripts applicable to their situation. IPUSA is making an earnest call for serious and immediate action in this matter.
General Sitole is running an unhappy and chaotic police service currently, especially in Gauteng. South Africans would have seen Major Generals who used to be Cluster Commanders suddenly paraded on TV as candidates to be placed in Station Commander posts in Gauteng the police structure does not allow such a move, there was no consultation on such and or move and thus General Sitole’s conduct was arbitrary and unlawful. On realising his mistake General Sitole changed tune and embarked on another unlawful process of trying to place these Major Generals as what he called “overseers”. Unions and all employees are still waiting to hear and understand what ‘’overseers’’ are and what their role is and where and when was such an arrangement consulted. General Sitole is nevertheless implementing this unconsulted and illegal process causing chaos into day-to-day management of policing in Gauteng. One of the effects of what he is doing is to undermine the order of precedence in Gauteng; some Major Generals have practically been put in a situation where they now have to report to their peers of equal rank. Major Generals are sitting idle in their offices and are left without resources as a result of this chaotic implementation of ‘’overseeing’’ as Brigadiers and other junior officers are also being moved. The situation is so chaotic that written instructions and call ups tend to refer inconsistently and interchangeably to “Districts” and “Clusters” despite General Sitole claiming that Clusters had been abolished. General Sitole claims that he will be upgrading current posts of Brigadiers who are current Station Commanders and then place the Major Generals who are ‘’overseers’’ in the upgraded posts. This is unlawful and is a recipe for disaster. What he is actually saying is that he will manipulate an upgrade process to achieve a pre-determined outcome. This is unlawful. He is also going to undermine the legal interest that current incumbents, the present Station Commanders who are Brigadiers, have in the eventual appointment process into an upgraded post. In reality General Sitole has abolished the cluster structure rendering the Major Generals who were cluster commanders redundant. He does not know what to do with these Major Generals and has now belatedly and without consultation dreamt and is implementing his shambolic ‘’overseer’’ process. General Sitole is misleading his principals and South Africans as what he is implementing in Gauteng has not been sufficiently consulted with Unions. Unions are in dispute with him in the Bargaining Council as we speak. He is sitting with very unhappy Major Generals in Gauteng, certainly not a situation conducive for effective crime combatting. It also needs mentioning that this man-made disaster is unfolding on the eve of a general election. General Sitole is clearly overwhelmed by the responsibilities that go with the position of National Commissioner.
At the present moment there is also brewing member discontent at lower level. This has expressed itself in public displays that call for and coming close to strike action in the most essential of essential services. Junior police persons are up in arms about overdue promotions; and in all this the voice of the National Commissioner is not audible. He is not heard anywhere, instead it is the Minister of Police who seems to have a concern and an appreciation of the seriousness of what is unfolding. This country cannot afford police discontent at all levels as currently is the case, more so with a National election around the corner. Leadership is needed in the SA Police Service and General Sitole has proved to be the exact opposite of what is needed.
IPUSA therefore calls for suspension of the National Commissioner pending all the above investigations, disciplinary and criminal. IPUSA will still call for an even more elaborate inquiry into matters of policing and will make submissions supporting that in due course. IPUSA calls for serious consideration of the matters it has raised and will not hesitate to look at other options in the event it is ignored.