South Africa


Heads are yet to roll over murder of top cop Charl Kinnear

Heads are yet to roll over murder of top cop Charl Kinnear
Sunday 18 September 2022 marked two years since Charl Kinnear was murdered.

Two years later and findings on ‘implicated’ police officers have suddenly been made ‘top secret’.

Sunday, 18 September marks two years since Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear’s assassination. A criminal case aside, several of his cop colleagues were found to have failed him. Yet it’s not clear if they’ll be held to account.

September is National Police Safety Month. This means that, annually in September, the South African Police Service (SAPS) pays tribute to cops who have died in the line of duty.

Since 18 September 2020, the month has also marked a tragedy that shattered any illusion that the country’s police service was strong and unified.

The assassination of Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, outside his Bishop Lavis home in Cape Town, exposed layers of distrust and back-stabbing in the SAPS.

At the time, Police Minister Bheki Cele said: “This officer has been under threat for some time. He was provided with police protection but that was withdrawn at some point. Now I want to know what informed that decision.

“This family deserves to know whether their father was failed and, if so, heads must roll.”

It has been two years since then and while several “heads” have been identified, most are yet to “roll”. The case also has some open ends.


Cops in the wrong

Police have not announced the arrest of the gunman who pumped bullets into Kinnear.

It is not even clear if he is still alive; there are suspicions in police circles that the gunman himself was murdered after Kinnear’s killing.

Other suspects, including Nafiz Modack, who Kinnear was investigating; Zane Kilian, suspected of illegally tracking Kinnear’s cellphone; and Kinnear’s colleague, former Anti-Gang Unit cop Ashley Tabisher, were detained for allegedly being part of the plan to have Kinnear murdered.

This case is unfolding in court.

Then there is the issue of Kinnear’s security, or the lack thereof. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) analysed why Kinnear had no security assigned to him in the run-up to his assassination.

Daily Maverick reported extensively on Ipid’s preliminary report in November 2021. In June 2022 Daily Maverick also published several articles on Ipid’s final report.

The reports, leaked to the media and others, made scathing findings against several cops including top police officers.

Ipid even lodged criminal complaints against Khehla Sitole, who stepped down from the position of national police commissioner at the end of March – the presidency said it was in the country’s best interests. The police watchdog was of the view that Sitole failed to cooperate with their investigation relating to Kinnear. Sitole denied this.

Promises in Parliament

Back in February last year, Parliament’s police committee issued a press statement saying it made a commitment to Kinnear’s widow Nicolette to “seek justice for the killing of her husband and ensure accountability”.

Police committee chair Tina Joemat-Pettersson told her: “We will keep this matter on the programme of the committee.”

This is where the final Ipid report into Kinnear’s security fits in.

Ipid handed this report to Cele and it was anticipated it would be tabled before Parliament’s police committee, thereby becoming a public document.

Nicolette Kinnear this week confirmed to Daily Maverick that Ipid officials had met her family and discussed the report’s contents.

She requested a copy but was told it first needed to be tabled with Parliament’s police committee, as it would then become publicly accessible, and she was a member of the public.


‘Top secret’ classification

But in August the police committee heard that the report was classified as “top secret”, meaning appropriate security clearance was needed to access it.

Minutes from that meeting say Joemat-Pettersson pointed out that not all members of the portfolio committee of police had top secret security clearance and the matter could be raised with another committee whose members had security clearance.

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Classifying the report top secret means not even Nicolette Kinnear can have access to the document now, despite it already being widely reported on and disseminated.

A document on the State Information Technology Agency’s website, relating to information security, details the classification of documents.

It says: “The responsibility for the gradings and regradings of document classifications rests with the institution where the documents have their origin. This function rests with the author or head of the institution or his delegate(s).

“The classifications assigned to documents shall be strictly observed and may not be changed without the consent of the head of the institution or his delegate.”

This suggests Ipid may have requested, or agreed to, the document’s classification.

‘It wasn’t me’

Daily Maverick this week asked Ipid if it requested its report into Kinnear be classified as top secret and, if so, why. Ipid spokesperson Lizzy Suping responded: “Please note that the Charl Kinnear report has been handed over to the Minister.”

Daily Maverick asked Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, if Cele had requested the classification of the Ipid report. She replied: “Minister of police or Ministry has not made such a request, that is an operational function.”

So, Daily Maverick asked the SAPS if it requested the Ipid document be classified top secret. The national police spokesperson said she would check with Ipid but did not provide a response by the time of publication.

It remains unclear who decided Ipid’s report should be made top secret – and why.


Rogue unit and collapsing cases

As previously reported by Daily Maverick, findings and recommendations of the (now) effectively restricted report include that:

  • Kinnear’s assassination meant several cases iinvolving corrupt cops who were getting firearm licences to criminalsuspects, could collapse.

  • In December 2018, Kinnear, in a written complaint to his bosses, said rogue police officers in the Western Cape, linked to crime intelligence, were working to frame him and some of his colleagues. Ipid found a rogue unit indeed existed and four members of it should face departmental charges.

  • Two Hawks officers Hawks officers should be criminally charged for failing to act when Kinnear’s cellphone was being illegally monitored. Also national Hawks’ head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya “failed to ensure that the [Hawks] members implicated investigated the threat against the state and therefore failed to protect the national interest or security of the state”. Lebeya hit back, saying a warrant officer attached to the Hawks went all-out to alert key colleagues about the threat to Kinnear’s life.

  • Consideration should be given to disbanding the Western Cape’s Anti-Gang Unit, which was found to be under resourced.

  • Kinnear’s assassination highlighted not just the issue of some police officers needing better security, but also broader problems in the SAPS.

  • The Ipid report being classified top secret could make it more difficult for anyone without security clearance, and therefore without access to the report, to demand that those implicated in it be held to account.

Meanwhile, the targeting and killing of cops continues.


Attacks on the state

According to the SAPS, 33 cops died while on duty between April 2021 and March 2022.

In more recent killings, an off-duty sergeant based at the Cape Town Central Police Station was murdered earlier this month as he arrived in Samora Machel, a low-income Cape Town settlement.

“The victim was not armed with his service pistol at the time of the incident and it is still unclear whether he was killed for access to a firearm,” a police statement from 8 September said.

On the evening of 21 June 2022, Constable Shamielah Arendse, who was stationed at the Table Bay Harbour Police Station in Cape Town, was gunned down in Delft.

Both these incidents involved cops being targeted outside their homes, like Kinnear was. DM168

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



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