South Africa


The SAPS crisis is too big — South Africa must act, now

From left: National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier) | Former Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Netwerk24 ) | Former Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs. (Photo: Tracey Adams / ANA) | Western Cape police Major-General Jeremy Vearey. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

While dedicated SAPS members like Sergeant Catherine Tladi worked hard to ensure serial rapist Sello Mapunya is imprisoned for life, SAPS top leadership is riven with deadly divisions and deep-rooted corruption which threatens the wellbeing of the country.

There is no time for “business as usual” as revealed in our report that a September 2020 internal audit found that SAPS had blown R1.6-billion in irregular PPE expenditure.

We at Daily Maverick have been reporting on the crisis in SAPS for several years. We have looked at the links between the underworld and SAPS officers and which cost Anti-Gang Unit member Charl Kinnear his life. 

Kinnear was assassinated outside his home. He was deeply involved in investigating colleagues implicated in issuing fraudulent firearm licences to known criminals. 

The man is dead. (The man is dead.)

The murder has exposed the deep divisions and mistrust in SAPS leadership with three senior officers, AGU Head Andre Lincoln, former Crime Intelligence (CI) head Peter Jacobs and Western Cape head of detectives Jeremy Vearey fending off ongoing attempts to sideline them.

Jacobs has argued he is being sidelined for exposing corruption in CI amounting, he said in a letter to Sitole, to billions.

That Jacobs and the entire top leadership of CI were suspended and then served with a disciplinary notice for alleged R500,000 PPE irregularities smacks of hypocrisy — R1.6-billion in wasteful expenditure has been exposed in the internal audit and there appear to have been no consequences. Jacobs submitted a treasury note as part of his evidence that no transgressions had taken place.

All the disciplinary processes instituted by SAPS and Sitole have been overturned by the Labour Court.

The latest is that Vearey is facing dismissal for Facebook posts — this is the best management can do.

This appears to be about nothing other than a fight for power in SAPS.

We have covered evidence given to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry that the SAPS Crime Intelligence secret service account was abused over a period of more than 10 years to the point of bankruptcy. 

We have reported on how CI was weaponised to target opponents and to cook up evidence to get rid of them, using millions of taxpayers’ money.

Richard Mdluli, the former head of CI, faces numerous criminal charges. It is common cause that Mdluli treated the secret account as a personal bank account. He also used the division to employ scores of relatives and other agents, many of whom remain employed.

National Commissioner Khehla Sithole himself faces an inquiry into his fitness to hold office after a scathing court finding on the classification of documents in the “Nasrec grabber” scandal, while being locked in an unseemly public battle with Police Minister Bheki Cele.

At least 20 senior cops have appeared in court on charges of corruption and the battle between former Crime Intelligence head Peter Jacobs and Sitole over Jacobs’ suspension makes regular headlines.

Lieutenant-General Francinah Vuma, Divisional Commissioner: Financial Management and Administration who investigated Jacobs for alleged PPE procurement irregularities, is herself facing a probe by the DPCI.

Vuma was excoriated by the high court for using the “classified” excuse more than 13 times in her attempt to ward off an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

Journalists reporting on SAPS’s internal leadership battles have been monitored, followed and harassed. 

In one instance, my own home was broken into in March, a day after an unsigned information note was circulated in SAPS recommending an investigation into certain journalists, including me. 

Only my work computers were taken by the glove-wearing intruders clearly seeking to unmask whistle-blowers.

The man fielding questions from the media and who is caught in the middle of all of this is Brigadier Vish Naidoo, National SAPS spokesperson, who does a crisp job providing standard responses to queries: “sorry internal matter, we don’t discuss this”.

Naidoo’s job is to try to limit collateral damage, reply to an endless stream of accusations made against SAPS and its members and leadership and to guide the media on possible inaccuracies.

Naidoo and SAPS have missed many opportunities to blow their own trumpet with some of the major successes SAPS has managed to accomplish in impossible war-like circumstances in the midst of this crisis. Like Sergeant Thali, who headed the investigation into serial rapist Sello Mapunya. This would go a long way to piecing together shards of broken confidence in SAPS.

When former Brigadier Kobus Prinsloo was sentenced to 20 years in jail for selling about 9,000 firearms to gangsters, the SAPS could have congratulated the members of Operation Impi, led by Vearey, who bust the gun-running ring.

Veteran cops Vearey and Jacobs are mentioned on almost every single page of Mark Shaw’s latest book, Give Us More Guns, which sets out how SAPS’s own weapons fuel a deadly war on the Cape Flats, claiming lives daily.

Yet the SAPS does not claim these victories.

What’s more, SAPS officials are now annoyed with Daily Maverick for exposing the draft audit report R1.6-billion in irregular expenditure as investigated by the Division Supply Chain Management.

We authenticated the report as genuine, naming  Lieutenant-General Avhashoni Ramikosi as CFO (he was not named in the report) at the time, according to the SAPS website. Naidoo has, however, pointed out that Ramikosi had been suspended and Major-General Puleng Dimpane was appointed to the position in 2019, so it would be he who would have received correspondence, and not Ramikosi. (We apologise for the error.)

From his side, though, Ramikosi was implicated in a series of “questionable contracts” with Forensic Data Analysts. 

These were the shocking findings by SAPS’s own internal audit report; we aimed to make it public and should SAPS choose to engage with the media now, that is good.

While SAPS could have spun it that the audit committee had in fact done its job and had found possible fraud and corruption, the fact remains that we’re talking R1.6-billion in wasted and irregular expenditure in just six months.

South Africans got the message a long time ago: something has to be done with policing in our country. SAPS had better get that message soonest. President Ramaphosa and Minister Bheki Cele better get the message now. 

The media are not enemies of SAPS. The media are the enemy of corruption and unaccountability.

This is a matter of grave national interest. We will continue reporting on it until something changes. There isn’t much time left. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    When a crook is in charge of more crooks one can only expect a very dire result.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Power corrupts,absolute power corrupts absolutely.SAP is a scenario where there is 1 toilet at the top,2 below, 4 below etc.Being a police member is a 2 way scenario,you want to catch criminals and send them to jail,or you want promotion as no 1 priority.Commissioned officers go with the status qou,nothing that impedes your chance of promotion.You look the other way if it is better for your career.Saps took a nose dive when Zuma came to power.Do yourself a favor, go find out how many meetings a police station has in a month.Analysis paralysis, but you are sitting in a board room,statistical manipulation .In the upper echelons you need leaders of character,if you go against the flow of corruption,you are targeted, isolated,transferred,charged dept .etc, like a chess game.The hyenas are feasting and you wanna take away there dinner.It spills over sometimes to the CPF, where the members from society are an extention of what happens at the police station.Humans are complex,but when, Honesty, Integrity, etc is not the cornerstones of why you do things,nothing changes.The question arises,are there enough good men and women of honesty and integrity to change things around.My opinion is it is very late in the day

  • Charles Parr says:

    The problem of leadership of the SAPS has been the elephant in the room for so long and now requires urgent action and that action needs to cut deep. Getting the rubbish out of this organisation will not be easy but it has got to be done. The new leadership will need exceptional leadership and organisational skills which means that they probably won’t be ANC people.

  • Alley Cat says:

    You are a brave lady Marianne as are the other journos who report on these things in the face of threats and abuse. I salute you.
    I fully agree with your conclusion, but alas, I don’t believe it will ever happen. The ANC has too much to lose if they clean out. As long as the fish’s head is rotten, nothing will happen and these guys at the head have too much information on the largenyama skeletons that reside in all the top ANC cadres’ cupboards.

  • Carol Green says:

    As ever, thank you Marianne 🙏🏽. This country owes journalists like you a great debt. And I appreciate that you pointed that the media is not the enemy of SAPS, but of corruption and lack of accountability.

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    Roundabout 2014 I got involved in an altercation with the SAPF when a cadre in a police vehicle skipped a stop street and almost caused a serious accident on a national road. I tried to open a case, but was advised not to at the police station as nothing would came from it. It then dawned on me that our country has lost the plot. It is still the case. The only difference is that the media with balls started to write about the rot and it is now common knowledge that our police is a law in its own sick mind.
    Belief and hope that things will change is baseless. Am I a prophet of doom? No. Just a realist. It is too late. The SAPF has created the biggest gang of them all, funded by tax payers. Everyone swimming against the tide is in danger of being taken out. It cannot turn around. It can just get worse. And it will.

  • Patrick Veermeer says:

    Simple question: what hasn’t the ANC broken?

  • District Six says:

    Three senior officers, AGU Head Andre Lincoln, former Crime Intelligence (CI) head Peter Jacobs, and Western Cape head of detectives Jeremy Vearey, are all former ANC cadres too. Ahem, … those for whom the term “cadre” is a lazy hold-all.

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