Daily Maverick

Parliament: IPID says SAPS corruption is SA’s biggest national security threat

IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) Executive Director Robert McBride threw shade in Parliament on Thursday. “The biggest threat to national security is corruption in the SAPS,” he told MPs of the police committee, highlighting dodgy procurements, crime intelligence slush funds and how the SAPS attempted to “lure” IPID investigators from probing police officials with offers of better salaries in the SAPS. It’s the latest instalment in a long-standing drama of no love lost. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

There are SAPS counter-investigations of Independent Police Investigative Directorate investigators investigating SAPS officials, including former acting national commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane. And at least two IPID investigators have been approached by the SAPS to implicate senior members of the police watchdog directorate in return for better salaried posts in the police.

They are using state funds to lure our investigators… That itself is a crime… SAPS members using state resources so SAPS members are not investigated,” said IPID investigations head Matthews Sesoko. Legislative changes are needed for better oversight, particularly of SAPS crime intelligence that “is involved in internal political battles” it is not legally or constitutionally allowed to do.

And if anyone in committee room V454 had any doubts, IPID boss Robert McBride maintained: “This is not a thumb suck. We have evidence of this.”

There has been little love lost between IPID and the SAPS for a while. Much of it is related to the police watchdog’s corruption probe of Phahlane, but also with regards to the IPID role in reconstructing what happened at scene two at Marikana, where police shot dead 34 Lonmin miners in August 2012. There is still no funding made available for this; around R5-million is required. Or as McBride put it: “One way to undermine us is to deny us funding.”

The tensions were visibly on display in Parliament 10 months ago when both IPID and SAPS appeared before MPs in May last year.

On Thursday it emerged while IPID investigations are ongoing, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has declined to prosecute Phahlane for defeating the ends of justice, related to what IPID described as the counter-investigations.

Tensions also have not been eased by other IPID investigations, including the IT infrastructure and forensic supplies contract with a private company Daily Maverick revealed last month.

On Thursday IPID raised further questions over SAPS procurement practices, and links of police crime intelligence into the arena of politics. Why would a ministerial adviser without security clearance attend not one but four SAPS procurement meetings? And why would the procurement, invoicing and payment of a grabber – simply speaking, a gadget to capture data through interception – be concluded at 10pm on the eve of the ANC December 2017 national conference?

IPID said it failed to obtain SAPS co-operation on any level, if it was to say the documents it has in its possession –“hand-scribbled notes” from a senior police officer authorising the grabber acquisition on “contrived reasons” – were false.

ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane seemed gob smacked: “The ANC would never sanction this!” The police committee seemed on Thursday set to decide to further enquire into this from the SAPS at a meeting scheduled for next month.

By then new SAPS crime intelligence boss would have had some time to settle in. The official appointment was expected Thursday afternoon, ending some seven years the police’s crime intelligence has been without a permanent head following the suspension of Richard Mdluli in 2011, and final departure from the SAPS in January 2018 .

There are huge challenges, including the lack of security clearance for senior crime intelligence officers. Earlier this month, the SAPS told MPs that 22 of the 51 senior mangers did not have valid security clearance – and neither do 4,184 of the 7,437 crime intelligence SAPS officials.

It is against this background that McBride told MPs there were serious questions over the police crime intelligence covert funding, around R5-million, as there were no procedures in place to oversee or monitor spending. It was “an ATM”, he said: “It buys a lot of patronage.”

And so the police were pre-occupied with “stealing”, not fighting crime. “The SAPS function… as a matrix of crime. The biggest threat to national security is corruption in the SAPS… We are no longer able to effectively contain crime,” said McBride. DM

Photo: IPID head, Robert McBride addresses Parliament’s Police Committee, 29 March 2018. Photo: Leila Dougan.

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