SAPS IN CRISIS
Bheki Cele steps in as Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs takes ‘flawed’ disciplinary debacle to Labour Court
This week a criminal complaint was lodged after claims surfaced that the cops heading a disciplinary hearing into Crime Intelligence officers, including its boss Peter Jacobs, were not authorised to have access to classified documents. Jacobs has now approached the Labour Court and Police Minister Bheki Cele has also flagged it.
The controversial disciplinary hearing focused on suspended Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs and five of his colleagues, which was meant to run from the beginning to the end of this week, has been put on ice pending a Labour Court decision.
This development points to a stalemate between Jacobs and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole, who is seen as having pushed ahead with the suspensions that led to the disciplinary hearing that has become the latest source of claims of potentially unlawful actions at the hands of cops.
The suspensions of Jacobs and his five colleagues relate to allegations of personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement irregularities involving the Secret Service account.
On the flipside, Jacobs previously countered that there was evidence suggesting that police officers, including Crime Intelligence colleagues, had looted the Secret Service account.
There are, though, some within the police who believe Jacobs is being unfairly targeted to thwart his efforts to expose widespread plundering of an intelligence account meant to go towards protecting South Africa against crime and threats.
On Monday, the disciplinary hearing began against Jacobs and his five colleagues who had been suspended over the PPE issues.
But claims surfaced that the police officer chairing the disciplinary process, the stenographer and the officer investigating the matter, did not have security clearance and were therefore not legally entitled to have access to classified documents that were critical to the process.
If they had access to the documents without security clearance, it would mean they were breaking the law. Without the documents, they could not conduct the disciplinary hearing.
A criminal complaint, on behalf of Jacobs, was lodged at the Silverton police station in Pretoria relating to the contravention of the Protection of Information Act and the Intelligence Act.
This matter has since been lodged with the Labour Court in Johannesburg, a move that effectively forced police bosses to decide on Wednesday to pause the disciplinary hearing, which Jacobs and his suspended colleagues had in any case felt was not being held in a fair manner.
The Labour Court matter may proceed next week, with Jacobs expected to push for the court to rule that the disciplinary process against him and his five colleagues was critically flawed due to the officers running it not having security clearance.
It is the second time Jacobs has approached a court relating to his suspension – he previously approached the Pretoria High Court to overturn it, but was unsuccessful.
On Thursday, asked about the incomplete disciplinary process becoming the focus of a Labour Court case, national police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said: “As a rule, we don’t discuss pending disciplinary matters in the public domain.”
He also declined to discuss whether the police officers identified by Jacobs had security clearance.
“This matter is (the) subject of the investigation (stemming from the case lodged at the Silverton police station on Monday).”
On Tuesday, Jacobs had written to Police Minister Bheki Cele about the way the disciplinary hearing was being conducted and highlighted the alleged lack of security clearance of those running it.
“The National Commissioner (Sitole) ought to have known that this is an impediment to the disciplinary process as they would not lawfully be able to apply their minds to classified documentation, essential to the charges,” Jacobs wrote.
Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba confirmed on Thursday that Cele had subsequently “written to the National Commissioner requesting him to look into the allegations raised by General Jacobs”.
Daily Maverick has seen a copy of Cele’s letter, which was dated Wednesday, 24 February, that states in part: “The allegations/ complaints by Lt Gen Jacobs are of great concern and cannot be ignored, hence I direct your (Sitole’s) office to attend to this matter quite urgently.”
Sitole seemed to have pushed ahead with the suspension of Jacobs and his colleagues – Brigadier Deon Lombard, Colonel Isaac Waljee, Colonel Manogaran Gopal, Major-General Maperemisa Lekalakala and Colonel Bale Matamela.
Jacobs was served a notice of suspension on 30 November 2020.
About a week later, so were his colleagues.
Aside from showing a divide between Jacobs and Sitole, the debacle has also shown that Jacobs and Lieutenant-General Sindile Mfazi, the deputy national commissioner of Crime Detection, do not see eye to eye.
Jacobs previously accused Mfazi of targeting him.
It is not the first time Jacobs has stood up to fellow top police officers, claiming they were unfairly acting against him.
In June 2016, while he was heading Crime Intelligence in the Western Cape and while investigating how firearms were being smuggled from police officers to gangsters, he was suddenly transferred.
Major-General Jeremy Vearey, who had been heading this massive investigation alongside Jacobs and who was acting detective head in the Western Cape (a position he now holds in a permanent capacity) had also been transferred.
This, they said, effectively derailed the firearm smuggling probe.
Both Jacobs and Vearey had approached the Labour Court in Cape Town to have their transfers set aside and they were successful in August 2017.
But they were only promoted – Jacobs to national Crime Intelligence head and Vearey to Western Cape detective head — after President Cyril Ramaphosa took over as head of state from Jacob Zuma in February 2018.
Meanwhile, Daily Maverick previously reported that about a month ago, Jacobs was unexpectedly told that his suspension, which has highlighted the latest widening cracks among cops, would be lifted, enabling him to return to work next Wednesday.
This is the same week the Labour Court matter relating to the incomplete disciplinary hearing is expected to be heard. DM