AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
‘We were lied to’ – The fiasco of ‘Top Secret’ Ipid report into the assassination of senior cop Charl Kinnear
Parliament was told a police watchdog report into detective Charl Kinnear’s assassination was restricted as senior officers were implicated. Earlier this month, Parliament heard proper processes were not followed when the report was classified, bringing into question whether it was indeed restricted.
At first, a widely leaked Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) report into the assassination of detective Charl Kinnear – and critical shortcomings in the SA Police Service (SAPS) – was not restricted. Daily Maverick and other publications ran several articles on its contents.
It later emerged the report had been classified “Top Secret”, meaning only those with special clearance were allowed to see it. No reasons for this were initially provided.
Earlier this month, Parliament heard proper processes were not followed when the report was classified, bringing into question whether it was indeed restricted.
Now it has been classified as secret.
Not, or maybe, Top Secret
This series of events relating to the report, the basis of which is a policeman’s assassination in which other cops have been implicated, has amplified the controversy already surrounding the killing.
There have been accusations in Parliament that state figures lied to politicians about the report. It is set to remain a focal point for Parliament’s police committee.
In August, the committee heard the Ipid report was Top Secret – with no reason given. Details about the classification slowly emerged over the ensuing months, and committee members demanded answers.
An Ipid presentation dated 2 November said the work of a task team set up in January 2021 culminated in the report, which focused largely on why Kinnear was not under state protection at the time of his assassination in September 2020.
He was shot outside his home in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town.
On 2 November, Ipid said: “The report was classified as Top Secret due to a number of sensitive information, incriminating statements made under oath and related documentary evidence.”
It added that the report contained private “personal identifiable information” that, if disclosed, could go against the Protection of Personal Information Act.
Ipid said the way forward included “adherence to Minimum Information Security Standard (Miss).”
A government document on the Miss explains that it “was compiled as an official government policy document on information security, which must be maintained by all institutions who handle sensitive/classified material of the Republic”.
“This will ensure that the national interests are protected.”
But Ipid executive director Jennifer Ntlatseng made a startling concession.
Initially, on 14 October, Ntlatseng told Parliament’s police committee Ipid classified the report “because we were investigating a sensitive matter and it implicated senior [police] officers”.
But at the 2 November meeting, she revealed the report was not classified via the proper procedures: “With regard to the process around the Top Secret, we want to acknowledge we did not follow the Miss process.” So, was the report secret?
The police committee later issued a press release about what Ntlatseng had said. It stated: “This implies that due process was not followed and renders the classification moot. This might impact on the investigation and prosecutions going forward.”
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‘We were lied to’
In another police committee meeting, on 9 November, the matter was still a concern.
Police committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said “the minister” – presumably Police Minister Bheki Cele – sent a note headed “Resubmission and replacement of the Ipid Kinnear classification”.
She added: “The report is now classified.”
This suggests it was not classified at first.
At the 9 November meeting, the DA’s spokesperson on the police, Andrew Whitfield, said that the classification remained unresolved.
“I’m glad that we finally got the truth. The problem is that in [previous] meetings we were not given the truth,” said Whitfield.
“To put it more bluntly, we were lied to. We were told that the document was classified Top Secret.”
Whitfield and a colleague, during a previous police committee meeting, asked questions about the report’s classification: who restricted it, when and why?
Ntlatseng said it was restricted because senior police officers were implicated.
But Whitfield said: “We were then [subsequently] told it was classified incorrectly, which meant it wasn’t classified … Now we are told it has been classified…
“I think we need to investigate why Parliament was not given the truth at the outset in terms of the nature of classification … The committee has a duty to Parliament and to the public to expose the reasons why we were lied to.”
What the report revealed
Whitfield said it was now obvious why no action had been taken against media houses that reported on the contents of the report when it was said to have been Top Secret. It was because it was not classified at the time media articles on it were published.
The report concluded that two Hawks officers should be criminally charged for not acting when Kinnear’s cellphone was illegally monitored.
Ipid also found that the 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 state”.
Lebeya hit back, saying a warrant officer attached to the Hawks had alerted colleagues about the threat to Kinnear’s life.
Ipid lodged criminal complaints against former national police commissioner Khehla Sitole, as he allegedly failed to cooperate with its Kinnear probe. Sitole denied this.
‘Persecution and poisoning’
The Ipid report found that the former head of the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU), now retired major general Andre Lincoln, failed to ensure Kinnear’s protection.
Ipid recommended that Lincoln be charged because his “inaction … constituted misconduct … and a serious dereliction of his duty as a senior police officer”.
In Parliament on 9 November, Western Cape police commissioner Thembisile Patekile (who was not head of the province’s cops at the time of Kinnear’s murder) said information he had was that Lincoln withdrew Kinnear’s protection.
For his part, in a related labour court matter, Lincoln stated in an affidavit: “I believe I am being persecuted by the SAPS because I have made disclosures about the inaction of my seniors.”
Daily Maverick previously reported that AGU members unofficially protected Kinnear in late 2019, but in December had to be redeployed for festive season operations.
It was also reported that in November 2019 Lincoln’s “attempts to set up a meeting with acting provincial commissioner Sindile Mfazi, about threats to lives of AGU members including Kinnear, had come to naught”.
Mfazi died in July 2021. At first, his death was attributed to Covid-19 complications, but suspicions later emerged that he was poisoned.
A police task team has until 25 November to submit a report about a departmental investigation that links to Ipid’s Kinnear report findings.
- September 2020: Detective Charl Kinnear, who is investigating suspects, including fellow cops, is assassinated in Cape Town. He should have been under state protection, but was not.
- January 2021: An Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) task team is assembled to investigate.
- September 2021: A preliminary report implicates several senior police officers and is leaked to the media.
- May 2022: A final report is complete. It also implicates top cops and is leaked.
- August 2022: Parliament’s police committee hears the report is classified “Top Secret”, but no reason is given for this. The report’s contents have already been widely reported on in the media.
- October 2022: Ipid executive director Jennifer Ntlatseng tells Parliament that Ipid classified the report “because we were investigating a sensitive matter and it implicated senior [police] officers”.
- November 2022: Ntlatseng concedes that the report was not classified via the proper processes. This suggests that the report was never actually classified.
- Parliament subsequently hears the report was resubmitted and classified. The police committee is dissatisfied with the way the report is being handled. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.