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SAPS IN CRISIS

Cop corruption ‘whistle-blower’ is actually running a smear campaign against police bosses, SAPS claims

Cop corruption ‘whistle-blower’ is actually running a smear campaign against police bosses, SAPS claims
Patricia Mashale, a former cop, says her life is at risk because she lifted the lid on high-level police corruption. (Photo: Facebook)

The South African Police Service has hit back at an ex-cop in hiding, who told Parliament she blew the whistle on high-level corruption and now fears for her life. It alleges she is part of a group running a smear campaign against top officers.

A former cop who says she exposed high-level corruption is not a whistle-blower, but a member of a group running a devious social media campaign to discredit its top bosses, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has alleged.

During an online police committee meeting in Parliament on Wednesday, Patricia Mashale said she was in hiding and did not want any SAPS or State Security Agency (SSA) officers to conduct a threat assessment on her because she did not trust them.

Adding some weight to her assertions was that National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola advised on Wednesday that the SSA, not the SAPS, should conduct the assessment.

This was because proper procedures relating to a previous threat assessment on Mashale had not been followed.

Casting doubt

It emerged during Wednesday’s meeting that Mashale was dismissed from her job as a police clerk in February allegedly because she reported high-level corruption in the SAPS, including in the Free State.

Now the SAPS has hit back.

It has effectively claimed Mashale is running a smear campaign against police bosses, was dishonourably discharged from a previous job, and that she and her husband – a former police reservist who once faced corruption claims and was dismissed – have threatened another cop.

This saga highlights the risks whistle-blowers face in South Africa, especially when exposing corrupt colleagues.

It has also brought attention to another element of whistle-blowing: purporting to expose corruption to tarnish the reputation of others. 

Police officers have claimed before that they are the target of smear campaigns involving criminal claims made against them, which crooked colleagues, or criminals, are driving.

Due to the SAPS’s latest allegations about her, Mashale’s name is now in this grey area, questioning whether she is a true whistle-blower, which she has stated is the case and which has led to her fearing her former colleagues.

‘Driving a smear campaign’

In a presentation, dated 30 November and meant for the police committee, the SAPS said Mashale had previously been given an opportunity to be declared a whistle-blower by the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council.

But the bargaining council had not received a motivation for this from Mashale.

“Due to this failure by Ms Mashale and her legal representative to furnish the council with the requested motivation, she was not classified in terms of the Protected Disclosure Act,” the SAPS presentation said.

It made serious allegations:

“Ms Mashale is part of a group of people, together with former dismissed SAPS members and Malesela Teffo, who are driving a smear campaign on social media by spreading false, baseless, defamatory and unsubstantiated allegations against SAPS top management and the service.”

Teffo is a controversial advocate who was struck off the roll of legal practitioners earlier this year.

He had represented some of the accused in the Senzo Meyiwa murder trial, during which his conduct, including swearing in court, raised eyebrows.

The SAPS presentation claimed the group Mashale was part of was running a smear campaign “solely with the intention to discredit SAPS top management and bring the service into disrepute”.

It referenced the Free State, suggesting that there were allegations that suspended ANC secretary-general and former Free State premier Ace Magashule, who is an accused in a corruption case, had influence over, or the support of, police bosses there.

“SAPS is unaware [that the] management in the Free State has been dominated by supporters of the former premier Magashule,” the presentation said.

Labour law and dismissal

It said Mashale had been employed as an administration clerk in the police service from August 2007 until February this year.

“During October 2021, Ms Mashale participated in a strike action while she was reportedly off sick.

“She was subsequently charged for misconduct together with another SAPS member… who was on duty but participated in the unprotected strike and was also dismissed.”

During a march, the SAPS presentation said, Mashale had read out a memorandum and “insulted” a provincial commissioner as well as other senior police managers.

“This was captured in footage. She was subsequently charged for misconduct and bringing the service into disrepute.

“The disciplinary hearing was convened and Ms Mashale walked out of the hearing with her union representative and she was subsequently discharged [in February 2022].”

This contradicts what Mashale implied had led to her removal from the SAPS.

In a previously published online petition, which she is driving, she said: “Since I blew the whistle on huge corruption in SAPS, implicating senior management, my life became threatened. I have also been dismissed from my job and I have no way of sustain myself financially anymore.”

‘Dishonourable discharge and irregular employment’

Meanwhile, the SAPS presentation said that back in 2009 a complaint had been received that Mashale had been irregularly employed in the police service.

“The matter was investigated by Inspectorate and recommendations were made for a disciplinary process to be instituted. 

“Ms Mashale was then charged for failure to disclose her dishonourable discharge from the Department of Health where she was previously employed as well as irregular employment in the Service.”

But a disciplinary hearing had not proceeded because timeframes had not been adhered to.

Protection order

The SAPS presentation also referred to Mashale’s husband, George, saying he was once a police reservist.

Information had been previously obtained about his alleged involvement in a corruption case dating to 2008. “The allegations were investigated which resulted in his arrest as well as his accomplices. They were subsequently charged and detained on these charges. He was subsequently dismissed as a reservist.”

The presentation said Mashale and her husband were also accused of “circulated threatening, false, baseless and defamatory messages on social media” against a police major-general.

Read in Daily Maverick: “Plight of whistle-blowers — SA needs a culture shift and proper legislation

It said that “based on the continuous and sustained harassment of SAPS Senior Management by both Ms Patricia and [her husband]”, the major-general obtained a final protection order against them in August last year.

In September this year a case had been opened against Mashale’s husband for the alleged violation of the protection order.

“Police went to effect the arrest on the basis of a warrant of arrest, but he was not traced,” the SAPS presentation said.

‘Uncooperative’

It said Masemola had tried to work with Mashale in relation to corruption allegations she had made.

“Several attempts were made by the National Commissioner to reach out to Ms Mashale to have the issues investigated, but there is no cooperation from Ms Mashale.

“The SAPS is considering all legal avenues available to address the continued smear campaigns which is not limited to SAPS Top Management initiating litigation in their private capacity.”

It further said that the SAPS “is unaware of any persecution” of Mashale. 

During Wednesday’s police committee meeting in Parliament, Mashale said she did not want the SSA to conduct a threat assessment on her, as Masemola suggested.

“They were part of the people who were involved… in the unlawful seizure of my phone… So I would really not want to compromise myself and expose myself to state security,” she said.

She added that SAPS officers still had her seized phone.

The SAPS presentation referred to a cellphone – it was not clear if this was the same one Mashale had spoken about in Parliament – that was confiscated based on a “lawful search and seizure warrant” that a magistrate had granted in October 2021.

That cellphone, the presentation said, was an exhibit in a pending magistrates’ court case set to be heard in Bloemfontein in January.

‘I am a whistle-blower’

During the police committee meeting a document from Mashale was shown briefly. It stated clearly that she considered herself to be a whistle-blower.

“I am a whistle-blower who reported massive corruption in Free State SAPS and suffered massive retaliation and occupation detriment following my protected disclosures to the former National Commissioner, General [Khehla Sitole],” Mashale said.

Sitole was made to step down from the country’s top-cop position earlier this year.

Mashale, in the document, said that despite the threats against her, she had not received assistance in terms of security from certain state entities. DM

Caryn Dolley has spent years tracing the footprints of crime/drug kingpins from across the world. In her latest book, Clash of the Cartels, Dolley provides unprecedented insight into how specific drug cartels and syndicates have operated via South Africa, becoming embroiled in deadly violence in the country and bolstering local criminal networks. Available now from the Daily Maverick Shop.

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