South Africa

SAPS IN CRISIS

Fired cop Jeremy Vearey in hiding: ‘This is a life and death struggle against organised crime’

Former Western Cape police boss Major-General Jeremy Vearey in Pinelands on August 25, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa.. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

The former head of detectives in the Western Cape, Jeremy Vearey, who is trying to get cop bosses to provide him with adequate security because of threats to his life, says he is up against “the politics of organised crime” and has gone underground as he did during apartheid. This week the Western Cape High Court ordered police bosses to reinstate a security detail to protect Jeremy Vearey, who has headed critical investigations into gangs and fellow cops, and who has said his life is in danger as a result.

Following the court order on Thursday 15 July, Vearey was provided with security, but he has said this was not adequately done and not in keeping with the court order.

“I therefore remain in hiding with my family away from home and will continue to do so until the SAPS (South African Police Service)  can read and implement the High Court order properly, let alone implement it without malice or further deliberately recklessly endanger my life,” he said on Saturday.

“I have lived an underground existence before while in MK (Umkhonto weSizwe) and the ANC’s Department of Intelligence and Security under apartheid. I will continue to do even more so now to protect my family.

“This is about a life and death struggle for survival against the politics of organised crime, and will be responded to accordingly, SAPS protection notwithstanding.”

Daily Maverick understands there are legitimate concerns about his safety, especially when taking into consideration the assassination of Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear who was shot outside his Bishop Lavis home in Cape Town in September 2020, despite it being widely known he was the target of threats.

At the time of his murder, Kinnear was among a team of police officers investigating how cops in Gauteng were allegedly fraudulently creating firearm licences for criminal suspects in the Western Cape.

Vearey, as well as Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, who was controversially transferred from heading Crime Intelligence earlier this year, and Major-General Andre Lincoln, who led the Anti-Gang-Unit, have also investigated this arena of police involvement in effectively arming suspects.

When Kinnear was assassinated outside his house, he was not under police protection.

In a recent labour court matter, Jacobs, in an affidavit, said that 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 Vearey security matter, the Western Cape High Court on Thursday ruled that National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole and Provincial Police Commissioner Thembisile Patekile must assign two tactical response team members to Vearey.

It further ordered that when Vearey had to testify in court matters and when he travelled, they would, by prior arrangement, provide him with four tactical response team members.

But on Saturday, Vearey said two officers reported for duty with one vehicle.

“This is a downgrade of the previous state of affairs when I had a four-member escort team with two vehicles.”

Vearey said it had also been instructed that he not be transported in a police vehicle so the two officers assigned to him would, he said, “do mere escort services.”

“They have no brief to cover me 24 hours and will only work normal shift hours then leave,” Vearey said, adding that he would have no “static protection at home.”

“This is a further downgrade of deployment despite the fact that the risk has escalated and the threat has not changed.

“It is also in direct contravention of the High Court Order for the protection to be reinstated. I have instructed my attorneys to challenge this in court as well as write to the SAPS to this effect. A Contempt of Court report will also be submitted.”

Daily Maverick understands this contempt of court process started on Friday.

Vearey said having only two police officers assigned to ensure his safety would put them at risk.

“It also recklessly endangers the lives of only two SAPS members assigned to me and can become a labour dispute in terms of their occupational health and safety,” he said.

“I cannot with good conscience and honour as an ex-senior SAPS officer knowingly remain silent while two members who have risked their lives to protect me for the past 10 years are deliberately placed in harm’s way by SAPS management.”

Recently, Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa declined to comment on Vearey’s security situation, telling Daily Maverick: “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.”

Vearey’s clashes with police bosses started earlier this year.

In May he was found guilty of misconduct over some of his Facebook posts which some police officers viewed as disrespectful to, among others, Sitole.

At the end of the month, following a disciplinary meeting, Sitole signed off on Vearey’s dismissal. (Vearey is taking this on, and the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council is expected to hear this matter at the end of this month.)

On 23 June, Vearey received a letter informing him that the protection detail assigned to him would be withdrawn.

In a notice earlier this month to launch an urgent application to have his security reinstated, which resulted in the order being granted last week, Vearey detailed how for years he has been the target of threats.

“Approximately five years ago I was officially informed by Crime Intelligence that threats on my life have been identified,” he said.

“These threats emanate from criminal gangs and even police officers… A threat and risk assessment confirmed the threats.”

Vearey also said his dismissal was “a method to achieve the ulterior motives of senior police management” and that “it cannot be excluded that the purpose of withdrawing my protection, is to discourage me from testifying in the high-profile criminal matters scheduled to take place as a result of my investigations and/or investigations that I mandated.”

He further believed there was a strategy at play to rid the police service of himself, Lincoln and Jacobs.

“We exposed corruption in the police and we diligently committed ourselves to the eradication of gang activities and police corruption.” DM

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