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Top-ranking cop Francinah Vuma ‘fears for her life’...

South Africa

SAPS IN CRISIS

Top-ranking cop Francinah Vuma ‘fears for her life’ as police chief moves to suspend her

Deputy National Commissioner of Asset and Legal Management, Francinah Vuma. (Photo: Gallo Images / Laird Forbes)

The police’s deputy national commissioner of asset and legal management, Francinah Vuma — previously found guilty of breaching her duties — claims certain individuals are trying to force her out of the service and that some want her killed.

Lieutenant-General Francinah Vuma, a deputy national commissioner within the SA Police Service (SAPS) — who a court previously found had breached her duties — has claimed that there have been threats to her life, possibly from key figures linked to the police who want her out of the way because she will not act corruptly.

Vuma made these and other claims in a letter dated 6 July 2022, seen by Daily Maverick, and addressed to, among others, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Hawks head Godfrey Lebeya.

In the letter, Vuma said she was spurred to make the “protected disclosures” as she feared for her life and because National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola was pushing ahead with suspending her, without giving her adequate time to respond.

“Because of my investigations and refusals,” Vuma wrote, “I am being ‘dealt with’ to ensure that I know my place. This cannot be how an organisation is run and this is why I am appealing to you to intervene.”

Her disclosures, while serious, could be viewed as an attempt to point fingers at those around her and distract from the court ruling that she had breached her duties.

An individual she identifies in the letter as having threatened her, told Daily Maverick he was cleared in the matter last year, with the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions declining to prosecute him.

‘Scared for my life’

In the letter, Vuma makes several startling claims. She says, in part: 

“I want to state upfront that… I am both scared for my life and livelihood as both are being threatened because I have taken it upon myself not to be influenced in my decisions and to stand on principle.

“In my capacity as Deputy National Commissioner responsible for asset management, I have had to rebuff numerous attempts by my seniors, to sway certain contracts to benefit certain companies.”

Vuma also said a brigadier once told her that a senior government official — along with a police officer and others — were planning to “falsely implicate” her in non-existent corruption linked to personal protective equipment.

She said, “they realised they were not winning and wanted to get me killed”.

Vuma also claimed that Masemola had underhanded intent.

“…General Masemola’s relentless pursuit to suspend me, without giving me adequate opportunity to exercise my rights as promised in various pieces of legislation, is nothing but an attempt at getting his hands at the safe, at the behest of those that couldn’t get their way in my presence.”

Approached for comment on Thursday, national police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe told Daily Maverick: “Kindly note that the correspondence referred to was not directed to the media, as such the SAPS is not a liberty to discuss the contents thereof with third parties.”

Guilty of breaching duties

In the letter, Vuma states she was never charged for anything as a police officer.

However, she fails to mention that she was previously, along with former national police commissioner Khehla Sitole and another colleague, Lebeoana Tsumane, found guilty by the Pretoria High Court of breaching a part of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act as well as their duties as SAPS officers.

This case related to the so-called “Nasrec grabber” scandal involving Crime Intelligence’s allegedly unlawful attempt at procuring a surveillance device known as a grabber for the heavily inflated price of R45-million (the regular price was R7-million) before the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec in 2017.

The Pretoria High Court found that the senior officers placed the interests of the ANC above those of South Africa’s citizens.

In January this year, Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm reported that the officers remained in office despite the court ruling. The following month, it emerged that Sitole was vacating his position ahead of schedule — Ramaphosa had said it was “in the best interest of the country”.

Masemola was subsequently appointed to head the country’s police service.

Daily Maverick understands that in February 2022, more attempts by Sitole, Vuma and Tsumane to appeal against the guilty judgment in the case had failed, with the Constitutional Court ruling that “leave to appeal must be refused for lack of reasonable prospects of success”.

This could be why Masemola moved to suspend Vuma.

Looming suspension

Vuma, in her letter, claimed that on 30 June 2022 she was summoned to Masemola’s office, where he informed her “that he was under pressure by people internal and external of the South African Police Service, to suspend me from duty”.

She said she tried, but failed to find out who the people were that were pushing for this. 

On 1 July, Vuma said Masemola again called her to his office around 9pm, where he handed her a written notice to suspend or temporarily transfer her.

“He purported to extend an opportunity to me to provide him with reasons why he should not proceed to suspend me, by no later than Monday the 4th of July 2022,” she said.

“On realising that General Masemola’s notice to suspend me was crafted in a manner that effectively denied me reasonable time to, firstly, peruse the documents attached to the notice but, secondly, to seek legal advice, I decided to write to Masemola, and to plead with him to afford me time until Friday the 8th of July 2022, to seek legal advice and to compile a response that he had wanted me to compile”.

Vuma said she was not granted this extension.

“It is evident to me from the determined haste of General Masemola to suspend me, that he is driven by improper motives other than the objects of the SAPS Discipline Regulation of 2016,” she said.

“In this regard, I have reasons to believe… that General Masemola is working in consent with people who are internal and external of SAPS, to obstruct certain investigations against his colleagues, his seniors and his acquaintances.”

Key investigations

Vuma said she was involved in several key investigations which included looking into other police officers. Among these was a case focused on Thoshan Panday, a businessman accused of fraud linked to the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Vuma said she had also come across coercion relating to PPE for SAPS.

In 2020, Sitole appointed Vuma “to conduct an investigation into certain irregularities related to the purchasing of PPE through the secret service account”.

She added: “The report of this investigation also pointed to the fact that Lieutenant General Gen Jacobs had committed irregularities.”

The “Lieutenant General Gen Jacobs” that Vuma referred to was presumably Peter Jacobs, previously the head of Crime Intelligence and now head of the police’s Inspectorate.

Daily Maverick reported that Jacobs was suspended in late 2020 over allegations (which he believed were bogus) relating to PPE procurement irregularities, following which he was transferred out of Crime Intelligence.

Meanwhile, Vuma said a senior official linked to policing “berated [her] for having produced reports that implicates Lieutenant General Jacobs”.

Murder-linked issues

She was also involved in looking into issues surrounding the assassination of Western Cape detective Charl Kinnear, who was killed outside his Cape Town home in September 2020. 

Kinnear was investigating several underworld figures at the time and should have been under police protection, but was not. Investigations focused on why he had not been under protection when there were obvious threats to his life.

“On completion of my investigation, I compiled a report which resulted in Lieutenant Gen Jacobs and others, being disciplined in terms of the SAPS, Discipline Regulations of 2016, for his role,” Vuma said.

However, the police watchdog cleared Jacobs.

Daily Maverick recently reported that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had found that, in relation to Jacobs’ alleged role relating to Kinnear’s security, investigators “could not establish any wrongdoing by Lieutenant-General Jacobs”.

Intimidation vs unfounded accusations

Vuma said she started receiving “intimidating messages” from around 16 February 2021. Some of these, she said, were from Jeremy Vearey who, at the time, was the Western Cape detective head.

Vuma said these “intimidating messages” “eventually saw [Vearey] dismissed from the SAPS”.

Vearey was indeed controversially fired from the police service in May 2021 — over a series of Facebook posts. During a subsequent hearing into his dismissal, Vearey’s legal representative pointed out that in a statement about feeling intimidated, Vuma had never mentioned Vearey and “there’s not one word in her statement against Jeremy Vearey”.

‘I’m not a pawn’

Meanwhile, Vuma said other intimidating messages were from an individual named “Colins Arendse” (this was probably a spelling error and she meant Colin Arendse) “in retaliation to the investigations that I had conducted against Lt General Jacobs”.

Arendse on Thursday sent Daily Maverick a statement of his version of events, saying Vuma had lodged criminal complaints of intimidation, defamation and crimen injuria against him in February 2021.

He said in this matter, the state alleged Vuma had received WhatsApp messages from him. However, Arendse said the cellphone number from which the messages were sent was not his — he said the number was used by an ex-police officer.

The prosecuting authority, he said, declined to prosecute him. Daily Maverick has seen correspondence, dated August 2021, from a police colonel to Arendse confirming this.

Of the claims against him in Vuma’s letter, Arendse said on Thursday: “I refuse to be used as a pawn in this ongoing malfeasance of state capture within government, and will be taking legal steps to clear my name once and for all.” DM

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All Comments 6

  • When a top cop fears being killed there is something seriously wrong with SAPS at the top. They must all go and be replaced with a non political police force which the ANC has nothing to do with.

  • It used to be, when officials got caught with their hand in the cookie jar, there would be embarrassment & a quiet departure, followed by legal consequences. Now, the water has been so purposefully muddied, that verity itself has become the prime victim. The results have been- & are dire. (Exhibit 1: the Trump imbroglio…) All that truly stands between us & the chaos of Putinesque through-the-looking-glass madness, is a handful of judges. Heaven help us.

  • Should any claim be entertained without the foundation of proof? What is the point of reading about claims without adequate substantiation ?

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