South Africa

Age of the Assassin

Charl Kinnear’s nine months of hell detailed in SAPS report into threats on his life 

Charl Kinnear. (Photo: Noor Slamdien)

A January 2020 internal SAPS record of communication with regard to the personal security of Anti-Gang Unit Section Head, Charl Kinnear, details grave concern for his personal safety, so much so that he was transferred out of the unit back to his ‘station of origin’ in Sea Point.

The information is contained in a five-page memorandum dated 27 January 2020 detailing discussions between Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant-General, Yolisa Matakata, and AGU head, Major General Andre Lincoln, and is a written record of “the current situation with regard to Lieutenant Colonel Kinnear”.

Charl Kinnear, who was heading a nationwide investigation into a massive firearms racket involving corrupt cops and implicating alleged underworld boss, Nafiz Modack, had received several threats to his life. 

When a media outcry ensued after Kinnear’s protection was removed in December 2019 and as his family faced increased pressure, Lincoln recommended that Kinnear be transferred out of the AGU and back to Sea Point. 

A month earlier a suspect with a hidden hand grenade had been apprehended outside Kinnear’s home.

“From reports in the media it is clear that the family is undergoing severe pressure as a result of the nature of investigations in which Lt Col Kinnear is involved in at the Anti-Gang Unit,” wrote Lincoln.

Nine months later, on 18 September 2020, Kinnear was assassinated by a lone gunman outside his home in Bishop Lavis. The murder had been meticulously planned.

Kinnear’s murder has triggered a possible turning point in the cleaving open of deep-rooted corruption in the SAPS and the private security industry and linked to a sprawling national network of violent criminals and politically-connected individuals.

After Kinnear’s assassination, Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, ordered an investigation into who was responsible for either providing or removing Kinnear’s security from December 2019 onwards leaving him exposed and vulnerable.

Lincoln’s January 2020 feedback of discussions with Matakata – which took place before Kinnear’s murder – sets out how, on 15 November 2019, attempts to set up a meeting with acting Provincial Commissioner, Sindile Mfazi, about the threats to lives of AGU members, including Kinnear, had come to naught.

Two days earlier, on 13 November 2019, an AGU Tactical Response Team commander had reported that he had been contacted by a source who had informed him of the threat to the lives of four AGU officers involved in investigations in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

An email trial shows that the Provincial Commissioner’s office acknowledged receipt of the email requesting the meeting. The meeting was scheduled for 22 November 2019 but was cancelled.

The following day, 23 November, AGU members who had personally and unofficially undertaken to protect Kinnear, apprehended a suspect outside Kinnear’s home with a hand grenade concealed in one of his trouser legs. A case was registered at the Bishop Lavis charge office.

The AGU attempt to meet with the Provincial Commissioner was never picked up again. And while AGU members, through Lincoln, had undertaken to personally protect Kinnear this was “a short term insurance measure”. 

On 31 October 2019, about a month before the suspect with the hand grenade was apprehended, seven suspects were arrested in Edenvale as a result of Kinnear’s investigations.

These investigations revealed how the accused had fraudulently obtained gun licences with the help of a colonel and a brigadier stationed at Edenvale. It also led Kinnear to a prominent gun shop in Kempton Park.

A case in the Western Cape involving gang boss and leader of the 28s Ralph Stansfield and his wife Nicole Johnson had also been linked back to the Olifantsfontein SAPS in Gauteng.

In the feedback note, Lincoln sets out how AGU members had been deployed to maximum effect in December that year and that members were needed for sustained operations during the festive season.

All leave had been cancelled and Kinnear’s colleagues had to be dispatched to perform these functions. The protection of Kinnear had, said Lincoln, also provoked resentment among some members of the AGU who had accused him of receiving “preferential treatment” when their lives too were exposed.

SAPS policy requires that Crime Intelligence perform a threat assessment with regard to members working on sensitive cases, but Kinnear point blank refused to work with CI believing a rogue element was targeting him and might have been behind the threats.

During an investigation conducted by national counterintelligence between 28 November 2019 and 7 December 2019 Kinnear had refused to cooperate and the threat assessment had been abandoned, noted Lincoln in his note.

On 7 January 2020 Matakata had requested feedback from Lincoln with regard to media reports about Kinnear’s protection.

“Major General [Lincoln] interviewed Lt Col Kinnear to inform him that he is redeployed to his station of origin, Sea Point,” noted Lincoln.

Kinnear had “refused to sign for receipt for this notification [dated 23 January] and demanded to have an interview with the Provincial Commissioner”.

Lincoln set out how Kinnear’s family had had an “unrealistic expectation” that it was the mandate of the AGU to provide protection services and that it “has the resources to provide a protection service at their residence on a continuous basis”.

Kinnear, who attended AGU management meetings, should have been aware that “the AGU is severely under-resourced and that these expectations are impossible to meet and unrealistic”.

As a last resort to remove Kinnear from clear and imminent danger when attempts to meet with Mfazi had come to naught, Lincoln had Kinnear transferred to Sea Point. 

The AGU base in Faure, at the time, had no fence or access control and placed him at greater risk. Kinnear however, continued the investigation which ultimately cost him his life. DM

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  • What a tragedy and a travesty of justice. When very senior officials in the SAPS are involved in the criminal activities themselves, how does a person who is trying to clean up the crime stand a chance.

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