Gauteng top cop faces charges
Gauteng police commissioner Major General Deliwe de Lange has been accused of protecting and promoting a white commanding officer who was found guilty – alongside two black subordinates and a reservist – of shooting dead an innocent woman. In a tragic case of mistaken identity, Constance Mabula was shot dead in October last year after dropping her brother off in Rabie Ridge, Midrand, after a family gathering in Alexandra. The 31-year-old mother of two was driving a Ford Everest of the same make and model as a reported hijacked vehicle police officers were looking for. As she dropped her brother off, the three police officers and a police reservist opened fire on her and sprayed her car with bullets. They did not first verify that her numberplate matched that of the hijacked car, or check whether the occupants were armed. Her brother survived the shooting after several bullets, fired by officers the police unit had called for backup, missed him. Mabula died on the scene and the police officers realised that they had shot the wrong person. Now, charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice have been laid against De Lange and her deputy, Major General Jeanette Basson, by Mabula’s husband, Phaleng Mabula, who is a police officer attached to the Sandton police station. In his affidavit, he accuses De Lange and her deputy of “selectively” dismissing two black officers – Constable DP Machabalala and Constable NJ Makgamatha. The two were found guilty following a disciplinary hearing in September last year, alongside their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel V Roberts, for causing his wife’s death. The hearing recommended that all three officers be dismissed. In addition, legal advice from the police’s own legal division agreed with the finding and recommendation. While De Lange approved the dismissal of Machabalala and Makgamatha, she apparently ignored the recommended sanction against Roberts and, while his disciplinary hearing was underway, he was promoted to the rank of full colonel. City Press has obtained Roberts’ dismissal notice, which remains unsigned by De Lange. Handwritten notes by a police human resources official read: “General, if you are not confirming dismissal, what are you replacing it with? You are replacing the dismissal with that sanction? It could be written warning (final) or suspended dismissal?” Two senior provincial police officers based at provincial police headquarters in Parktown told City Press that De Lange chose to issue what they called a “final, final and final warning”.
This infuriated Phaleng Mabula who, in an affidavit made at the Hillbrow police station, has complained about the selective sanction applied for the same offence, as well as the police’s alleged concealment of evidence implicating Roberts. In his affidavit, Phaleng Mabula says that while police management tried to deny that Roberts fired his weapon and that his constables did the shooting, it was later discovered that he shot eight rounds.
“This gives an impression that the criminals in blue are black males, while white members are holier than thou. This is indicative of this commissioner and her deputy being commissioned officers who are not fit and proper to hold their current positions in the service,” he said. Phaleng Mabula said what made it worse for him was that De Lange promoted Roberts while his disciplinary hearing was still underway, and after a murder charge had been laid with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
Police policy dictates that no police officer may be promoted while charges against them are being pursued. “The lives of my children since the untimely death of their mother have not been the same. I was never taken for counselling by the police,” Phaleng Mabula writes in his affidavit.
“My wife was the pillar of strength in the family and it is still difficult for me and my children to cope.”
In its legal advice to De Lange, the police’s own legal opinion was highly critical of Roberts. The report into his conduct states: “With 28 years of service and 14 years in the Vispol [visible policing] environment, he had sufficient experience to have taken proper control of the situation.”
The legal opinion also said that the three officers who shot Constance Mabula were “trigger-happy and fired at will with no order given to them to shoot”.
Ipid is currently investigating a case of murder and attempted murder.
Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said the case against De Lange and her deputy was “transferred from Hillbrow to the provincial investigating unit in December”.
“The unit is about to conclude the investigation. We therefore cannot comment at this stage,” she said.
Deliwe de Lange