SAPS IN CRISIS
Fired cop Jeremy Vearey’s protection detail ‘withdrawn’ in a move he says will further endanger his life
It has been ordered that protection services allocated to fired policeman Jeremy Vearey be removed at the end of this month – before he testifies in a major gang-related case and after his colleague, Charl Kinnear, was assassinated following the removal of his protection.
Vearey, who was dismissed from the South African Police Service at the end of May and who has investigated some of the country’s most critical gang-related cases, believes other officers are effectively siding with criminals in having his protection detail removed.
In a letter to him on Wednesday, which Daily Maverick has seen and which is addressed to “Ex-Major General” Vearey, he was informed that: “The protection services that was provided to you will be withdrawn on 2021-06-30.”
This means that as of next Wednesday, Vearey may be without what he views as necessary protection.
The letter was signed by acting Western Cape police commissioner Thembisile Patekile.
Responding to a query from Daily Maverick, Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said on Thursday, 24 June: “As a norm, the SAPS does not divulge information on the security of individuals. Even in the case you are making enquiries about, there will be no deviation. Affected parties who may have questions or queries pertaining to their security arrangements are encouraged to raise concerns with police management.”
Vearey confirmed on Wednesday that he received the letter about the withdrawal of security.
“As far as I’m concerned, personally, I consider this a callous attempt to endanger my life further,” he told Daily Maverick.
Vearey saw no difference in criminals who threatened him and officers within the police service who were instrumental in the attempt to remove his protection.
“It all serves the same purpose,” he said.
Vearey was set to be the “chief racketeering witness” in a case focused on suspected 28s gang kingpin Ralph Stanfield, which was expected to proceed in August.
Stanfield was arrested along with other suspects, including a trio of now former police officers, in a case centred on allegations that cops had created fraudulent firearm licences for suspects.
It is common knowledge that in organised crime cases witnesses may be threatened and intimidated – in some cases in the Western Cape they have been murdered.
Vearey said “despite that” (him being set to testify in an apparently high-risk case in a few months) officers were pushing ahead in removing his protection.
“They cannot claim they do not know,” he said, referring to him being set to testify.
He was adamant he would find himself back within the police service and vowed to hunt down and expose criminal elements within it.
Vearey also said certain police officers faced “a big fight” in terms of the planned removal of his security.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union was dealing with Vearey’s dismissal, as well as the plan to do away with his security, on his behalf.
It is understood the union could try to obtain an interdict to prevent the security removal.
In May it emerged that Vearey, who has served 26 years in the police service and who is widely known as one of the country’s top gangbusters, faced intense friction with certain colleagues.
He was found guilty of misconduct relating to eight Facebook posts he made between December 2020 and February 2021.
A disciplinary meeting recommended Vearey be dismissed.
On 28 May, national Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole signed off on Vearey’s dismissal, even though some viewed this as a conflict of interest since Vearey’s social media posts were seen to have targeted Sitole.
Previously, speaking out about his dismissal, Vearey said it had been dealt with speedily through an expeditious process, which differed from the usual disciplinary process in that no witnesses had been called.
He said that while police bosses were quick to proceed with his disciplinary and dismissal, they were dragging their feet when it came to tackling critical issues affecting South Africa.
One of these issues, Vearey said, involved the case focused on former police colonel Chris Prinsloo, who admitted to selling about 2,000 firearms that were meant to have been destroyed, allegedly to a businessman who was accused of smuggling them to gangsters.
Vearey and Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, the former head of Crime Intelligence who was controversially transferred to head the police’s Inspectorate earlier in 2021, had headed this massive guns-to-gangs investigation, codenamed Project Impi.
But in June 2016, while they were busy unravelling what they said were illicit firearm networks, they were transferred within the police.
They said this resulted in the derailment of Project Impi.
Following his recent dismissal, Vearey vowed to support a potential class action lawsuit that stemmed from the Prinsloo matter, which could see families of victims shot with firearms smuggled from police to gangsters take on the police service and its bosses in court.
Meanwhile, the attempt to remove Vearey’s security detail has become part of an apparent pattern.
At the start of this month, Maverick Citizen reported that police security had been withdrawn from Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear’s widow, Nicolette Kinnear, and their two sons.
Kinnear was assassinated outside their Bishop Lavis home in Cape Town on 18 September 2020.
At that stage he had no security detail despite obvious threats to his life.
Kinnear, at the point of his murder, had been involved in investigating underworld crimes, including how police officers in Gauteng were allegedly creating fraudulent firearm licences for suspects, some of them in the Western Cape.
This mirrored accusations in the Ralph Stanfield matter and was also similar to what Project Impi allegedly uncovered.
Maverick Citizen previously reported that it was alleged that a suspect tracked both Kinnear and Vearey’s phones (as well as others) ahead of Kinnear’s assassination and that security was provided to Vearey following the murder.
The matter of security, or the lack thereof, relating to Kinnear led to Major-General Andre Lincoln, who headed the Anti-Gang Unit of which Kinnear was a member, and Peter Jacobs facing a disciplinary hearing.
However, both approached the Labour Court to halt these proceedings, and were successful, pending their referral of the matter to the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council.
In an affidavit in his Labour Court quest, Lincoln said that towards the end of 2019 Anti-Gang Unit members had been dispatched to watch over Kinnear’s home.
However, they were redeployed on 13 December 2019 due to the festive season and because their presence was needed elsewhere.
Lincoln, in his affidavit, said he felt targeted by fellow police officers.
“I am entitled to be protected from any reprisals from senior Generals in SAPS [South African Police Service],” he said.
“The disciplinary proceedings against me are clearly a result of my disclosures against the senior Generals for having accused them of failing to fulfil their duties and responsibilities as contemplated in the Security Policy.”
Jacobs, in his affidavit, said he felt targeted due to protected disclosures he had made.
Among the issues he raised was “about internal investigations about wide-scale corruption within Crime Intelligence, amounting to millions of Rands, involving current and former senior officers within Crime Intelligence in the SAPS”.
In his affidavit, Jacobs also said that the failure to act against certain police officers in the Western Cape – about whom Kinnear had complained 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”.
Concerns of this nature – about being “unprotected and thus vulnerable to being assassinated” – now may apply to Vearey. DM
This article was updated at 17.15pm on 24 June, 2021, to add a response from SAPS.
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