South Africa

EDITORIAL

Good morning, Colombia: Kidnappings, assassinations and corruption – SAPS is a systemic threat to SA

Additional deployed members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) at the parade inspection by the Minister of Police on April 07, 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. The National Crime Combating Forum has deployed additional officers to selected areas due to the gradual increase of violent crimes. (Photo by Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

A weak SAPS, infiltrated by organised crime and in cahoots with the security industry, is a toxic brew and one for which we have already paid a heavy price.

In just the past few months our National Commissioner, Khehla Sitole, has been found by the courts to have breached his duties, the commander of the SA Police Service (SAPS) “kidnapping” unit has been arrested for extorting money from a distraught family, a deputy commissioner has died and been exhumed after a suspected poisoning and a top cop who stopped police guns from being sold to gangsters has been fired.  

Whichever way you look at it, the SAPS leadership and the direction the whole organisation is hurtling towards at present is a great systemic threat to South Africa’s safety and security.

If it remains unchecked at these levels, we will find ourselves living in a society where private militias, disguised as security companies and working in tandem with senior SAPS officials and organised criminal syndicates, threaten the most intimate corners of our lives.

We are fast approaching a level of institutionalised criminality rivalling Colombia of the 1990s. It will destroy our economy, affect every aspect of our lives and slow the tourism flow to a mere trickle. 

It has to be stopped.

In April this year, the Hawks arrested Colonel Thatia Moremi, commander of the SAPS Kidnapping Task Team based at Crime Intelligence (which for years has conveniently had a revolving door of heads and acting heads), for attempting to extort R40,000 from the family of a businessman kidnapped in the Johannesburg CBD in May.

Moremi allegedly told the family he would “speed up the investigation and the safe return of the victim” in exchange for a fee. 

While Moremi was facing charges, on 20 October, the four Moti brothers were kidnapped on their way to school in Polokwane.

Even as Moremi was out of the picture at the time, the subsequent kidnappings of the Moti brothers as well as of a Grade 5 pupil outside her school in Mayfair on Wednesday, 17 November, suggest there may still be criminals operating within the CI ranks.

In the case of the Moti brothers, R50-million was reportedly paid as a ransom. The boys were dropped off on the side of a road where they made their way to a nearby resident to ask for help.

There are many questions that remain unanswered about the Moti and other kidnappings, but the SAPS insists on being tight-lipped. 

In light of the arrest of the commander of the unit, the SAPS and the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, owe the country an explanation.

Six months after the Moremi incident, it appears that the spate of kidnappings has not subsided; in fact, it has escalated. 

SAPS crime statistics for 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020 showed there were 6,632 kidnappings that year alone, most of which never made headlines.

Meanwhile, a damning report by the police watchdog body Ipid into the assassination in September 2020 of Anti-Gang Unit detective Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, who was investigating his colleagues and their links to the underworld, reveals the depths of incompetence, criminality and complicity within the SAPS and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI, or the Hawks).

Ipid found that indeed a “rogue” unit existed within SAPS Western Cape Crime Intelligence and that this unit had targeted Kinnear as well as Jeremy Vearey, former head of detectives in the Western Cape, and Peter Jacobs (former Crime Intelligence head) in an attempt to smear or implicate them in organised crime.

As we speak, Commissioner Sitole and his two deputies, Francinah Vuma and Lebeoana Tsumane, who were also found guilty of failing to assist an Ipid investigation into the R45-million “Nasrec grabber” matter, are still at work in spite of being found wanting.

Vuma in the meantime has attempted to declare all top SAPS positions vacant.

And while Sitole faces an inquiry into his fitness to hold office, President Cyril Rampahosa has stalled on this, indicating that some horse-trading might be in the offing. Sitole and his deputies, however, have exhausted their options in court.

Vearey, the man who led Operation Impi which uncovered the sale of around 9,000 SAPS guns by a SAPS brigadier to gangsters on the Cape Flats, is now out of a job. 

Vearey is a key witness in a high-profile gang-related matter making its way through the courts. 

He was fired by Sitole for Facebook posts. 

The veteran cop has vowed to take the findings of a Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council, which upheld his suspension, on review.

Jacobs, whom Sitole wrongfully suspended late in 2020, is out in the cold still, sitting at a desk in the Division Inspectorate – neutralised for now.

The death of the Deputy National Commissioner for Crime Detection, Sindile Mfazi, in July has also not been resolved and this too is deeply troubling. 

The SAPS initially said Mfazi had died of Covid-19 complications, but his body was later exhumed after allegations surfaced that he had been poisoned. 

The SAPS has not released any findings of the inquest, but should Mfazi, who now conveniently features at the centre of several allegations of corruption in the SAPS, have been murdered, that would be a pretty big and shocking deal.

Over and above all of this has been the gargantuan splurge by the SAPS on personal protective equipment (PPE) during the Covid pandemic. 

A draft internal audit found R1.6-billion had been splurged irregularly, with some tenders – one for R11-million – being given on verbal instruction.

The Treasury’s dashboard also indicates that the SAPS was the second-biggest consumer of PPE between April and July 2020.

In September, Maverick Citizen uncovered that a single Mpumalanga company, Red Roses Africa, had benefited from a R515-million contract to provide disinfectant at grossly inflated figures. 

This criminal behaviour by top SAPS leadership has severely damaged the standing and reputation of the SAPS and ordinary hard-working members.

As a result, they are often at the receiving end of public abuse and disrespect.

The shooting in the head of Len Cloete by a young female SAPS officer during an altercation in a Muldersdrift hotel room on 13 November is evidence of this. 

In a video of the incident that has gone viral, the disrespect Cloete displays is clearly evident, first approaching the officers naked, then threatening them with a firearm while repeatedly insulting them for being “useless and cowards”, before daring them to shoot him.

The torn and tattered reputation of the SAPS at present puts us all, including honest cops, in massive danger.

A weak SAPS, infiltrated by organised crime and in cahoots with the security industry, is a toxic brew and one for which we have already paid a heavy price. 

Justin Naylor, MD of insurer iToo has said that the reason families did not want to report kidnappings to the SAPS was because “there’s a general mistrust in South Africa about the ability of the police to handle a complaint and such a complex situation”.

According to Naylor, “It happens a lot in countries where there’s lawlessness, where there’s big inequality, poverty and political instability. That’s an environment where kidnapping thrives because that’s when people can get away with this.” 

He said that “this environment where we’re in now, with riots, strikes and looting, this is the perfect environment for kidnapping to thrive”. 

South Africa must wake up from this nightmare and demand that President Ramaphosa and his Cabinet do something about this, and fast. South Africans are peaceful, caring human beings who just want to go on with their lives. The ruling elite of this country owes them that much, and more. It will be, however, impossible to achieve even the faintest of these dreams, as long as the SAPS is turning South Africa into Colombia from the days of Pablo Escobar and FARC tyranny. DM

Carte Blanche on Sunday, 21 November will screen an investigation into kidnappings in SA and the role of corrupt SAPS officers. 

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All Comments 19

  • Marianne, your last paragraph sums up exactly what this country has become, a gangsters paradise. Unless something very radical is done very soon to arrest that trend then this country can be written off for all time. Do these weaklings in government have even the slightest courage to start the process? I doubt it with useless Ramaphosa at the head.

    • Fully agree. Ramaphosa who has the power to start a massive cleanup of the criminal and rogue elements within the police, is the one and only stumbling block. His failures to act against criminal and rogue senior police officers expose himself for not being weak, as always, but also then partly, if not wholly, responsible for the systemic threat to the safety and well-being of citizens in this country, Security, fear of personal house crimes, is the number one concern of South Africans. And because of inaction by the president, the threat to our people due to police failings increase day by day, and many a live will still be lost, or destroyed.

  • Like they say “It is what it issue have answers and solutions ,but is the goverment that must implement them.Given the history of the last 27 years, the reality is that it ain’t gonna happen.I think it is Vavi that coined the term “hyena state” well it has progressed to a “piranha state”devouring south africa .We are not even spared this with a pandemic desimating the economy and destroying livelihoods. Self enrichment is at the order of the day.Its not a descent, it’s a free fall.I hope I’m wrong.

  • Cyril’s bloody minded objective to put the unity of the ANC above the interests of South Africa is a slow poison that is destroying our society. His determination to follow procedure, to act slowly, to try and placate his enemies within the ANC will end in tears and his legacy will be left in tatters and South Africa will have fulfilled Trump’s assertion that we are a shithole.

  • Thank you, Marianne, for writing about this dysfunctional and unacceptable situation. Please keep doing so, and keeping the SAPS issue forefront in the public consciousness. A trustworthy police service is a crucial component of a civilized society – and we are far from that at present.

  • This is all on Ramaphosa. When the police did nothing to stop the recent looting you have to conclude that it was happening because somebody wanted it to happen.

  • Bulgaria fired 30000 police and built police stations made of glass. Confidence went from 30% to 90% (figures subject to confirmation). For South Africa, why are we keeping the Hyenas in the kraal?

    • Remember this is also mostly the same cabinet that refused to indite Zuma or to remove him by any other means … until it was no longer expedient to do so and he “resigned” … and those same useless and implicated cadres who did not make it back into Ramaphosas cabinet got appointed to head up portfolio committees… think Zwane, Petersen, Muthambi, etc.

      • And just saying… Petterson oversees the Police portfolio.. really, the minister implicated in the sale of our strategic fuel reserves?

  • Marianne, this is a direct question for you. What, if any, are the generally-accepted ethics of publishing the ransom amount allegedly paid for the release of the Moti brothers? In my opinion, this should not only be forbidden by ethics (or common sense!) but should also be a criminal offence. I understand and fully support the need to raise public awareness of these cases but that must surely be balanced against any promotion of these inhuman crimes, the penalty for which should be a fate worse than a fate worse than death.

    • I agree. That ransom amount in the public domain will act as a massive incentive to others to do the same thing. I can practically hear the gasps, and ensuing enthusiastic plotting.

      Otherwise, brilliant article.

  • Everyday one reads of yet another event involving the very persons that should be protecting citizens of this country but the President fails to take action. How is it that the Minister and his senior staff of Sitole, Vuma and Tsumane are still in office? Clearly the President has no intention or is powerless to stop the slide to absolute anarchy.