SAPS IN CRISIS
Top cop Peter Jacobs heads to court again to stop police bosses from holding disciplinary against him
In February, Peter Jacobs, the then suspended Crime Intelligence boss, headed to the Labour Court and successfully halted a controversial disciplinary hearing against him. Now he’s heading down the same path to try to suspend a disciplinary hearing relating to slain cop Charl Kinnear.
Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, who now heads the police’s Inspectorate division, has again approached the Labour Court in Johannesburg to try to stop police bosses from going ahead with a disciplinary proceeding against him.
The proceeding relates to misconduct allegations Jacobs faces in connection with Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, who was assassinated outside his Bishop Lavis home in Cape Town on 18 September 2020.
Among the allegations Jacobs faces, based on an affidavit of his filed in the Labour Court this week, is that he “failed to give immediate attention to the threat on the life of late Lieutenant-Colonel Kinnear. Lieutenant-Colonel Kinnear was eventually killed emanating from the threats”.
Daily Maverick understands Anti-Gang Unit head André Lincoln, who was effectively Kinnear’s boss, also faces such allegations.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo had not responded to questions about the matter by the time of publication.
Jacobs, in his affidavit and countering the allegations he faces, has again highlighted fragmentation within the police.
He said that failure to act against certain police officers in the Western Cape, who Kinnear had complained about nearly two years before his murder, and who Jacobs previously labelled a rogue team, left Kinnear “illegally pursued, unprotected and thus vulnerable to being assassinated”.
“The assassination of Lt. Col. Kinnear was tragic and it has brought despair to the entirety of SAPS. We hang our heads in shame,” Jacobs said.
A notice of motion in the Labour Court said that Jacobs planned to launch an application there, possibly next Tuesday, to try to halt the disciplinary proceedings he faces. The respondents he is up against are national Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole and Lieutenant-General Japie Riet, the chair of the disciplinary proceedings against Jacobs.
It has recently emerged that Sitole is in Police Minister Bheki Cele’s bad books and the Labour Court action Jacobs has launched further shows divisions among some of South Africa’s most senior police officers.
In his affidavit, Jacobs said, “Regrettably, this is not the first time I am coming to this Court asking for assistance. Less than two months ago, this Court had to intervene in the same dispute between myself and the SAPS.”
In February this year, Jacobs approached the Labour Court in Johannesburg because he had been the focus of a disciplinary hearing relating to allegations of personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement irregularities involving the secret service account.
During that attempted disciplinary hearing, 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.
A criminal complaint, on behalf of Jacobs and linking to those claims, was lodged at the Silverton police station in Pretoria relating to contraventions of the Protection of Information Act and the Intelligence Act.
This derailed the hearing and Jacobs was later successful in his Labour Court attempt to have it halted.
In his latest Labour Court quest, Jacobs said that when the new disciplinary process (relating to Kinnear) began, he applied to have it suspended pending an outcome based on his referral of the matter to the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council.
However, this was refused, which he said was a violation of the Labour Relations Act. Jacobs wants the Labour Court to interdict and prevent the new disciplinary hearing from proceeding. He said that last month he was informed that he was to be charged with three counts of misconduct relating to Kinnear’s murder.
Jacobs found this “extraordinary” as he had already made protected disclosures about the matter. But he believed he was “being persecuted by the SAPS because of my protected disclosures”.
These, Jacobs said, included, “The existence and operation of a rogue intelligence unit that is unlawfully operating in the Western Cape.”
Jacobs was referring to police officers whom Kinnear had previously complained about in a 59-page letter to his bosses, claiming that a group of officers with links to Crime Intelligence were targeting him and some of his colleagues in the Western Cape.
He had made the volley of complaints in December 2018.
Jacobs subsequently labelled the officers identified by Kinnear as a “rogue team” and had recommended that the unit be disbanded. This never happened.
In October 2020, it was reported that the National Prosecuting Authority, after initially deciding not to proceed with the matter, was reviewing dockets relating to Kinnear’s complaints.
In his latest Labour Court affidavit, Jacobs said Kinnear had not trusted certain police and Crime Intelligence officers.
“The basis of his mistrust was that he had written an extensive report about the existence of a rogue unit, and the allegations therein included that charges were being falsified against him and other officers, evidence was being tampered with and investigations were being deliberately compromised. However, nothing had been done about this rogue unit. It continued to exist, with impunity,” Jacobs said.
“The inaction on the part of SAPS management, and his subsequent mistrust of the SAPS and Crime Intelligence, left him exposed and vulnerable.”
In the run-up to Kinnear’s murder, Jacobs said he had been on sick leave from 7 to 14 September 2020. He also decided to self-isolate, as the symptoms he experienced, he feared, may have been from Covid-19.
When Jacobs returned to work on 15 September 2020 — three days before Kinnear was killed — he had to be in several meetings and so was not able to attend to office paperwork.
“The above timeline demonstrates that I could not possibly be accused of failing to act — I was simply not in office at the time the crucial events took place,” he said.
“Yet, somehow, I have been charged with misconduct.”
Jacobs has come up against police bosses before, including Sitole.
In November 2020 he and five colleagues received suspension notices. This related to the allegations of PPE procurement irregularities involving the secret service account, which led to the disciplinary he managed to halt earlier this year.
However, Jacobs has previously countered that there was evidence suggesting that police officers, including Crime Intelligence colleagues, had abused the account. There were some within the police who believed Jacobs was being unfairly targeted to try to prevent him from exposing abuses of the account.
Jacobs was told his suspension would be lifted and he could return to work in March 2021, but not as Crime Intelligence head, rather as Inspectorate head. DM