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National Commissioner Khehla Sitole signs off on top co...

South Africa

SAPS IN CRISIS: NEWSFLASH

National Commissioner Khehla Sitole signs off on top cop Jeremy Vearey’s dismissal in police disciplinary battle

National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla) / Major-General Jeremy Vearey (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Last week a disciplinary meeting against Vearey, over Facebook posts he made, concluded with the recommendation he be dismissed. Sitole subsequently signed off on it.

One of the country’s top gangbusting police officers, Major-General Jeremy Vearey, will now have to fight to try to keep his job in the police service.

Last week it emerged that a disciplinary meeting chaired by Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga found him guilty of misconduct relating to eight Facebook posts he made between December 2020 and February 2021.

She recommended that he be dismissed.

Daily Maverick has seen a notice in terms of the police’s discipline regulations, in which Ntshinga says he should be dismissed.

Sitole signed the notice on Friday.

A typed section of it said: “By the virtue of the power vested in me, in terms of… the South African Police Service Discipline Regulations, 2016, I General Khehla John Sitole hereby confirm the following.”

This was followed by handwriting saying “Dismissal confirmed” and Sitole’s signature.

It is understood the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union is dealing with the matter on Vearey’s behalf and it has been referred to the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo on Monday said: “In light of the huge media and public interest in the matter of Major General Jeremy Vearey, the South African Police Service can confirm that a sanction of dismissal imposed on the Major General was endorsed by the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service on Friday, 28 May 2021.

“Some of the messages were directed at the National Commissioner and contained words that were considered derogatory, offensive, insulting and disrespectful to the National Commissioner, thus bringing the National Commissioner and the South African Police Service into disrepute.”

Vearey’s apparent dismissal is the latest in a series of disciplinary clashes between police officers from the Western Cape and Sitole.

Inspectorate head Peter Jacobs, who is also from the Western Cape, as well as the province’s Anti-Gang Unit boss, Andre Lincoln, have also recently been the focus of disciplinary action.

All three were members of the ANC’s armed wing, uMkhonto weSizwe.

Vearey, who was once a bodyguard for the first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela, has previously claimed suspects and other police officers are targeting him, in some cases through smear campaigns, because of investigations he has conducted.

Last week, Daily Maverick reported that Vearey, in a disciplinary meeting, was found guilty of misconduct relating to Facebook comments he made in relation to news articles on friction within the police service.

Two other officers had found the posts threatening and intimidating.

In her findings, Ntshinga said: “The acts committed, allegedly by the employee, had great potential to inspire others, both within and outside the SAPS, to rise and resist the authority of the National Commissioner and of those who are in the leadership of the SAPS. This factor alone has got potential to collapse levels of discipline in the SAPS, if it is left unchecked.”

In addition to Vearey’s dismissal, she recommended that Sitole “consider addressing the conduct of” Jacobs.

This is because Jacobs had represented Vearey in the disciplinary over the Facebook posts, despite his position as Inspectorate boss.

Jacobs was controversially transferred to this position in March after he was suspended as national Crime Intelligence head.

It is in this arena that Jacobs too came up against Sitole – in December 2020 he, along with a few colleagues, was suspended in a saga involving allegations relating to personal protective equipment procurement irregularities and the secret service account.

A disciplinary was then instituted against Jacobs and his suspended colleagues, but he managed to halt this when claims emerged that those running it did not have security clearance and therefore could not legally access documents that formed part of the matter.

A complaint relating to this was lodged with police in Silverton, Pretoria.

Jacobs also turned to the Labour Court in Johannesburg and in mid-March was successful in having it interdict Sitole and a second police officer from proceeding with the disciplinary, pending the referral of the matter to the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council.

For his part, Jacobs claimed that he uncovered abuse of the secret service account by fellow Crime Intelligence officers.

Some within the police service, therefore, believed Jacobs was being unfairly targeted because of what he said he uncovered.

More recently, Jacobs and Western Cape Anti-Gang Unit head Andre Lincoln went up against Sitole in the Labour Court, each in the province in which they are based. 

They faced allegations of a similar nature and were effectively co-accused in the disciplinary.

The allegations related to the security of Anti-Gang Unit member Charl Kinnear in the run-up to his assassination on 18 September 2020 outside his Bishop Lavis home in Cape Town.

Both Jacobs and Lincoln referred the matter to the sectoral bargaining council but police had apparently wanted to proceed with the disciplinary against them, despite the referral.

Jacobs, therefore, approached the Labour Court in Johannesburg again to halt the disciplinary against him.

This was because he referred the matter to the sectoral bargaining council as he believed he was being “persecuted” due to protected disclosures he had made about fellow cops.

Lincoln approached the Labour Court in Cape Town as he referred the matter to the sectoral bargaining council because he did not believe he would receive a fair hearing if it was chaired by a police employee.

He also felt he was being persecuted because he effectively said senior colleagues were responsible for the security situation relating to Kinnear.

Both Jacobs and Lincoln were successful, with the courts ordering the disciplinary be halted pending the sectoral bargaining council hearing, which is set for 1 July. DM

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