South Africa

SAPS IN CRISIS

Axed detective boss Jeremy Vearey claims he and Peter Jacobs were offered a bribe from head office cop

Major General Peter Jacobs legal representative Johann Nortje and Jeremy Vearey (second left) during the bargaining council hearing into the firing of Jeremy Vearey at the Cullinan Hotel on August 16, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. It is reported that Maj-Gen Jeremy Vearey was dismissed after he allegedly posted disparaging comments on Facebook about national police commissioner Gen Khehla Sitole. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Ex-policeman Jeremy Vearey has testified in a hearing into his dismissal that a police brigadier from the South African Police Service’s head office previously offered him and his colleague, Peter Jacobs, a bribe during a case in which they both successfully fought bosses against their transfers in the service.

Axed Western Cape detective boss Jeremy Vearey has alleged during a hearing that a fellow policeman offered him and the former head of Crime Intelligence, Peter Jacobs, a bribe while they were taking on cop bosses in a labour court matter.

While not the first time the allegation has surfaced, Vearey on Thursday said that a brigadier from head office, one Arthur Mphahlele, had loudly made the offer while the duo was in the Cape Town Labour Court a few years ago while trying to get police bosses to reverse their transfers that they felt was done unfairly.

They were successful in that matter with the court in August 2017, arguing that their transfers be set aside.

It was previously reported that police later found Mphahlele gave an acceptable explanation to what Vearey alleged.

Vearey was testifying on Thursday during a Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council hearing into his dismissal.

The hearing, which came about because Vearey is challenging his firing, proceeded on Monday and was set to run daily until Friday.

However, it was adjourned prematurely on Thursday due to a Covid-related matter.

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole signed off on Vearey’s dismissal, which came about due to a series of Facebook posts he made, at the end of May this year.

Omphemetse Mooki SC, who was cross-examining Vearey on Thursday during the hearing, focused on several of the posts.

These included links to Daily Maverick and News24 articles.

One of Vearey’s posts from December 2020 said: “TIME NO LONGER THAN ROPE” and “We won against all their money and power before. And this one we shall win, again, no matter the sacrifice or cost.”

Linked to this was an article about Jacobs who was facing suspension at the time.

Jacobs was national head of Crime Intelligence at that stage and went on to be suspended over allegations he found baseless and relating to expenditure and the secret service account.

On Thursday, Mooki made specific reference to a part of Vearey’s post: “We won against all their money and power before. And this one we shall win, again, no matter the sacrifice or cost.”

Mooki put it to Vearey that through these words, on his public Facebook post, he was “telling the world” and “the junior officers in the SAPS” that it was not the first time this — being up against police bosses’ money and power — had happened.

Vearey responded, referring to the first part of his post that said “we won against all their money,” stated on Thursday that it was a fact — “we did win.”

He was referring to the August 2017 Cape Town Labour Court matter that both he and Jacobs had been successful in.

This emanated from when both had been based in the Western Cape — Vearey as acting provincial detective head and Jacobs as provincial Crime Intelligence boss.

In June 2016, while both were still based in this province, they were suddenly transferred while heading a massive investigation, codenamed Project Impi, into firearm smuggling that involved police officers channelling guns to gangsters.

They argued their transfers were unfair and led to the effective stunting of Project Impi.

In August 2017 the labour court ruled their transfers should be set aside.

The following year, after Jacob Zuma stepped down as president and Cyril Ramaphosa became head of state, Vearey was appointed Western Cape detective head and Peter Jacobs was appointed national Crime Intelligence boss.

But late last year, after being suspended over what he believes were bogus allegations, Jacobs was transferred out of the position in March this year to head the police’s Inspectorate.

Some officers viewed this as being sidelined, much like what happened with Jacobs when headed Project Impi with Vearey.

Jacobs had gone to court over his suspension and related matters.

On Thursday during the hearing into Vearey’s dismissal, this is what Vearey said he had been referring to when posting on Facebook: “We won against all their money and power before. And this one we shall win, again, no matter the sacrifice or cost.”

He effectively posted that he and Jacobs would again, as they did in the Labour Court in Cape Town in 2017, triumph.

It was while explaining this that Vearey brought up being approached about a bribe during that labour court case.

He told the hearing Mphahlele had approached him and Jacobs inside the court in front of others including journalists who heard what he had said.

It was previously reported that this occurred on 23 March 2017 and that Mphahlele allegedly asked Vearey and Jacobs: “Everyone has a price. What do you want to drop the case?”

It was further reported that a national police spokesperson later said Mphahlele, who was part of the police’s legal services, had given an acceptable explanation about this.

It, therefore, appeared this matter was not considered an issue that needed to be dealt with.

On Thursday during the hearing, Mooki repeatedly asked Vearey about being under oath and lying under oath.

He said to Vearey that someone who lied under oath “must be condemned.”

Vearey agreed.

Mooki planned to play a video, apparently a television interview of Vearey, to those present at the hearing.

However, Vearey’s legal representative Johann Nortje was not satisfied with this because Mooki had not presented the video as evidence while previously dealing with his side of the case.

It also seemed the video was recorded after Vearey’s dismissal.

The video was not played and a ruling on its admissibility as evidence was therefore not made.

It was shortly after Mooki planned to play the video that the hearing was adjourned prematurely due to a Covid matter.

Earlier, during the week’s proceedings, two other police officers testified.

Major-General JP Scheepers, previously tasked with investigating Vearey’s conduct on Facebook, said he believed Vearey’s posts, along with the context (as understood by Scheepers), bordered on treasonous.

However, it was put to Scheepers that his interpretations of the posts and context were not congruent with Vearey’s intentions.

Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga, who headed a disciplinary meeting into Vearey’s conduct that led up to his firing, also testified she believed Vearey’s Facebook posts were damaging to the image of police service.

She further testified that in 2017 former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane (who was subsequently criminally charged and dismissed) requested she investigate Vearey and Jacobs.

This was meant to uncover whether they had leaked information relating to Project Impi, the massive guns-to-gangs investigation, to the media.

Ntshinga said her findings had not proved this.

Previously Vearey, in court papers indirectly linked to his firing, said he believed there was a strategy at play to rid the police service of himself, Jacobs and their colleague Major-General André Lincoln. 

Lincoln headed the Western Cape’s Anti-Gang Unit.

Vearey had said: “We exposed corruption in the police and we diligently committed ourselves to the eradication of gang activities and police corruption.

“I respectfully submit that my dismissal is none other than a method to achieve ulterior motives of senior police management.”

Jacobs and Lincoln, also in court papers of their own relating to action against them within the police service, have both independently said that they feel they are being persecuted by police bosses.

Jacobs has said he felt this because of protected disclosures he made which involved allegations of police corruption.

Lincoln said actions against him “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.”

The hearing into Vearey’s dismissal is expected to resume in September. DM

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All Comments 2

  • 200 mostly useless and incompetent overpaid generals with nothing better to do than hamstring officers like Vearey who actually do their jobs

  • Well Ramaphosa when are going to clear out your corrupt Police bosses, or like all your BS getting rid of corruption only applies to certain individuals.