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Guns and ‘rogues’: a ‘stolen’ pistol, a suicide...

DM168

CRIME INTELLIGENCE CRISIS

Guns and ‘rogues’ – the curious case of a ‘stolen’ pistol, a suicide and an allegedly dodgy investigating unit

A former policeman who worked in a unit within the Safety and Security Investigations Unit, Reynold Talmakkies was arrested in the week of Eric Lamani’s death. (Original Photo: Cambridge Police's Twitter account)

Questions swirl around a Glock pistol allegedly stolen from a City law enforcer, a suicide and a controversial Cape Town investigating unit.

A Glock pistol that went missing from a City of Cape Town security staffer in 2020 was recently found in the home of another staffer who is believed to have committed suicide there late in 2021, shortly before yet another colleague’s arrest.

The concerning series of events is churning up even more questions and controversy linked to a City of Cape Town investigating unit that the national government believes is effectively a rogue operation.

The City’s Safety and Security Investigations Unit (SSIU) was previously known as the Special Investigating Unit, a name already in use by the national government’s “forensic investigation and litigation agency”.

On one side of the SSIU saga is the DA-run City of Cape Town, which insists this unit is operating legally. On the other side, the police and Justice Ministry, which both fall under the ANC, believe it is operating outside the law.

These contrasting views hint at broader issues surrounding the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the City – the latter wants more control over policing, which goes against the national government’s stance.

Then there is the Good party, which includes former DA members who a few years ago already called for the SSIU to be shut down and who remain highly critical of the unit.

The following issues have contributed to this criticism:

A Glock, a suicide, arrests

On 30 March 2020, a case of firearm theft was registered with the cops in the Cape Town suburb of Bellville South. The Glock pistol was meant to have been in the custody of a Metro Police officer, who went on to face disciplinary action over the matter.

Fast-forward to 20 December 2021: Eric Ntsikelelo Lamani, a member of the SSIU who DM168 understands was also a former cop, was found dead in his home in the Cape Town suburb of Mfuleni, shot in the  head.

Police officers responded to this incident – a suspected suicide. A firearm, possibly the one used in the shooting, was discovered on the floor near Lamani’s body.

DM168 understands Lamani may have been on leave at the time of his death, so it was not clear whether he was killed with a service pistol, which he should not necessarily have had with him while off duty.

The situation gets stranger.

Former cops and Crime Intelligence

In the week of Lamani’s death, possibly a day afterwards, a former policeman who worked in a unit within the SSIU, Reynold Talmakkies, was arrested.

Talmakkies faced charges with two others – Asif Khan, the director of a construction company, and Paul Scheepers, a former Crime Intelligence cop – in connection with tender fraud involving hundreds of millions of rands.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Inside a police smuggling scandal – 175 missing firearms, increased inspections and a suicide

Daily Maverick reported last week that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate found that Crime Intelligence in the Western Cape – the unit Scheepers was attached to – had a “rogue unit” operating within it (which is what some now view the SSIU as).

Scheepers, who once did work for the DA, was previously accused of spying on certain political figures and illegally getting hold of a surveillance device, known as a grabber.

In the case of Talmakkies, Daily Maverick previously also reported that he had been criminally charged in another case involving alleged docket tampering linked to a police station in Mpumalanga. He pleaded not guilty in this case, which stems from 2016.

Gun in a ceiling

It is not clear whether Lamani’s death is linked to matters concerning Talmakkies. Although he does seem to be connected to the Glock possibly stolen from a metro police cop back in March 2020.

Just a few weeks ago, around 10 June 2022, the Glock was discovered in the ceiling of Lamani’s home.

It is not clear how the firearm got there.

Police investigations

This Glock issue and Lamani’s suicide are under police investigation.

In a response to DM168 questions about the matter, the City of Cape Town said: “The facts surrounding the loss of that firearm (and the subsequent disciplinary action against the official concerned), as well as the sad death by suicide of the staff member in whose house the firearm was subsequently found, are under investigation by the SAPS with the full support of City.”

The City then shifted focus to the national police.

“It must be noted that loss of firearms by municipal law enforcement is an extreme rarity,” it said.

“This is in contrast to SAPS, which [has] lost over 10,000 firearms in the decade 2011-2021 as reported in Parliament.”

This week, Western Cape police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk confirmed that a theft-of-firearm case was registered in Bellville South in March 2020 and was still under investigation.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Justice minister and Good party firm that Cape Town cop unit a ‘rogue operation’

He also confirmed the discovery of the Glock earlier this month and said this was also under investigation.

On Lamani’s death, Van Wyk said police in Mfuleni had opened an inquest.

Was the firearm planted?

The Good party’s secretary-general, Brett Herron, who has been exceptionally critical of the SSIU, wrote an open letter last week to Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis about the Glock saga.

“We don’t know if the firearm was used in the commission of any crimes, or whether it was placed in the ceiling by the deceased member or planted [there] by someone else,” a Good statement said.

“What we do know is that the firearm was reported stolen, and the member of the unit from whom it was stolen was charged and demoted.”

Herron said Good supported the city’s objectives to shift more policing power to metros, “but these powers can’t be illegally grabbed”.

“Organised crime thrives on loopholes and compromises in the criminal justice system.”

For his part, Hill-Lewis said recently: “I have no interest in getting involved in a political skirmish. What I am interested in is finding ways to take the fight to the violent criminals who terrorise our communities.” DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

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