New top cop ‘purges’ ranks
Phiyega’s supporters in the firing line as new police head sweeps through the ranks, picking out those who were close to her
Adramatic shake-up of senior police management is under way, with acting national police commissioner Lieutenant General Johannes Phahlane suspending or moving at least three senior officers who were appointed by his suspended predecessor, Riah Phiyega. Three high-ranking police officers, two of them close to Phiyega and one close to Phahlane, told City Press that several others were now in the firing line.
These include Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba and his KwaZuluNatal counterpart, Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni.
Meanwhile, the war between Phiyega and Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko escalated this week after he sent a letter on Tuesday informing her he would be withdrawing her head of department allowance – which, City Press understands, will mean a salary cut of 15% – and recovering the allowances that she had been “overpaid”.
Phiyega hit back on Friday and, in a lawyer’s letter City Press has seen, threatened that unless Nhleko undertook not to “implement the contemplated action”, she would take him to court.
On Thursday, Phahlane ordered former acting crime intelligence divisional commissioner Major General Bongiwe Zulu to vacate her position and move to the less powerful job of head of police research.
City Press has seen the letter Phahlane wrote “notifying” Zulu of her removal and an instruction for her to leave her office by tomorrow.
Zulu, who Phiyega appointed in 2013, has been ordered to lead the police’s research institute that Phiyega created.
Phiyega appointed Zulu as acting head of crime intelligence after the divisional commissioner for crime intelligence and protection services, Major General Chris Ngcobo, was placed on special leave after a vetting process revealed he had no matric certificate.
Ngcobo, now the ambassador designate to Mali, was found to have lied about his qualifications.
Zulu’s previous position, as divisional commissioner of human resources, has now been handed to Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who acted as police chief after Bheki Cele was suspended.
The move has angered police officers close to Phiyega who claim Phahlane is targeting them.
“Everyone who was close to Phiyega is now being targeted. They are either being frustrated or redeployed to various positions, while some do not have a clear job description,” said a senior officer close to Phiyega.
But a senior officer close to Phahlane, and another confidant of senior police leaders, denied that the move to remove those close to Phiyega was a purge, saying it was aimed at building a team that the new acting commissioner could trust to deliver.
“She also suspended a lot of people whose views were against hers. She is getting a taste of her own medicine,” said the officer close to Phahlane. He said the action to remove the four from their positions would be taken within three months.
Phiyega’s spokesperson, Solomon Makgale, and her longtime ally, deputy commissioner Nobubele Mbekela, were suspended this week for their roles in issuing statements in support of her.
The statements were made in Parliament by several provincial commissioners when it became clear Phiyega would face a board of inquiry into her fitness to hold office after the release of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry report.
Three senior police officers from both camps said action would soon be taken against Mothiba, Ngobeni and other Phiyega loyalists, including deputy national commissioner Khehla Sithole, who is head of policing operations, and head of detectives Vineshkumar Moonoo.
Mothiba and Ngobeni refused to comment when they were contacted by City Press.
Sithole and Moonoo did not respond to several SMSes and voice messages asking for comment.
Ngobeni has been a controversial provincial commissioner with a long-standing friendship with businessman Thoshan Panday. Two weeks ago, News24 reported on a secret forensic report by PwC, which found Panday allegedly showered Ngobeni and other officers with gifts in an apparent exchange for channelling business to his companies.
Five companies linked to Panday made a combined 200% profit on all items or services peddled to the police. Panday refused to comment on the report, saying it could be “fake” and his lawyers hadn’t seen it.
Moonoo has also courted controversy. He was accused by former Hawks head Anwa Dramat of interfering in high-profile cases, including the investigation into the overspending on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.
Mbekela has been suspended for several reasons, including saying in a radio interview that “the men of the country are attacking women in the country”, indicating that Phiyega was being targeted because of her gender.
Her charge sheet, which City Press has seen, includes charges of improper conduct and the “disgraceful and unacceptable manner” in which she conducted the interview.
Makgale and Mbekela have made unsuccessful representations to Phahlane explaining why they should not be suspended.
Makgale wrote, through his lawyers, that his “conduct amounted to nothing more than him carrying out his functions as head of communications”.
In the submission to Phahlane by Mbekela’s lawyers, she says the inquiry recommended by the portfolio committee is still subject to review and is “under consideration by the Speaker”.
Policing analyst Gareth Newham, the head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, said a major police reshuffle was a good thing,
“These changes are to be welcomed given that the diagnosis of the National Planning Commission was that a fundamental problem facing the SAPS [SA Police Service] is related to a serial crisis of top management,” he said. “This situation has contributed to a deterioration of policing resulting in a consistent upward trend in serious, violent and organised crime over the past few years.”
Newham said removing the SAPS leadership responsible for the decline was “just a first step”.
“Policing will only improve if highly skilled policemen and women of unquestionable integrity are appointed to fill top leadership positions,” he said, adding that vacant posts should be filled by way of a “transparent and competitive process as recommended by the National Development Plan”.
Phiyega this week accused the new police leadership of siding with Nhleko and campaigning against those she worked closely with.
She said in a statement: “I note with concern the campaign that is being waged by the newly appointed leaders at the SAPS with the backing and blessing of the ministry of police.
“In this regard, I will spare no effort in fighting against unlawful processes aimed at forcing me to resign from my position without the opportunity to present my side of the story.
“Fear is being instilled in those who have the responsibility to serve the nation. Already those I have worked with and/or promoted are being victimised. There is a clear plan to remove them from the SAPS simply because they are perceived to have been close to me.”
This week, a crime intelligence officer laid criminal charges against Phiyega after he allegedly witnessed how she had defeated the ends of justice by planning to undermine a criminal probe into suspended Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer and trying to undermine recordings by crime intelligence.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi refused to discuss any changes in the police management, saying these were internal matters.
IN THE BALANCE Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni
IN THE BALANCE Lieutenant General
IN THE BALANCE Lieutenant General
IN THE BALANCE Vineshkumar Moonoo
RESOLVED General Riah Phiyega
SUSPENDED Solomon Makgale