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Axed detective boss Jeremy Vearey subjected to ‘unfair arbitration trial’ in 2021 — labour court

Axed detective boss Jeremy Vearey subjected to ‘unfair arbitration trial’ in 2021 — labour court
Former SAPS Major General Jeremy Vearey. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

In May 2021, Jeremy Vearey, who headed the Western Cape’s detectives, was controversially fired from the police service. Later that year, a bargaining council hearing deemed his dismissal fair. Now, the labour court in Cape Town has found that the hearing was not fair.

The words “moer hulle” have come back to haunt the South African Police Service (SAPS).

This is because of a judgment delivered in the labour court in Cape Town on Tuesday, 20 February.

It found that former policeman Jeremy Vearey, a major general who was fired from the service in 2021, ostensibly for using the words “moer hulle” on social media, was the subject of an unfair arbitration trial following his dismissal.

It set aside a previous Safety and Security Bargaining Council award against him that seemed to support the idea he was inciting violence, which is not what he was previously charged with.

‘Not a fair trial’

The labour court has now ruled: “The applicant [Vearey] did not get a fair trial of the issues of arbitration.”

It did not make findings on whether Vearey was guilty of the charges previously lodged against him, and “whether the sanction of dismissal was fair.”

The judgment added that “this needs to be determined anew” before the Safety and Security Bargaining Council.

Vearey was an applicant in the Labour Court matter which the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union steered on his behalf.

Speaking to Daily Maverick on Tuesday, Vearey said the SAPS could now either challenge or accept the labour court finding.

“If they accept it, I’ll be 61 this year,” Vearey said, meaning he has already reached retirement age.

He said that if the SAPS accepted the labour court ruling, it would also mean that certain money it “owed” him would be paid.


Vearey was dismissed from the SAPS at the end of May 2021 after he was found guilty of misconduct relating to eight Facebook posts he made between December 2020 and February 2021.

The national commissioner of police at the time, Khehla Sitole, signed off on his dismissal.

Read more in Daily Maverick: National Commissioner Khehla Sitole signs off on top cop Jeremy Vearey’s dismissal in police disciplinary battle

In a subsequent twist of irony, in February 2022, President Cyril Ramaphosa terminated Sitole’s contract early, saying it “is in the best interests of the country.”

Sitole had faced accusations that he failed to cooperate with an Independent Police Investigative Directorate probe relating to policeman Charl Kinnear who was assassinated outside his Cape Town home in September 2020. Sitole denied this.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Game on: Ipid lays second criminal charge against National Police Commissioner Sitole

Kinnear, who was meant to have been under state protection at the time of his murder, but was not, had worked in the same Western Cape policing circles as Vearey.

The two knew each other and Kinnear once complained to cop bosses that other police officers, linked to Crime Intelligence in the Western Cape, were working against him and some other colleagues, including Vearey.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rogue cop unit in the Western Cape ‘exists’ and drove divisions in the province’s police – SAPS watchdog

Meanwhile, in the Vearey saga, in the eight Facebook posts he made which led to his dismissal, Vearey had not mentioned anyone by name.

‘Moer hulle’ 

In one of the posts, he had included the words “moer hulle.”

Certain police bosses had viewed it as his most controversial Facebook post as they believed it implied a threat.

An online function had translated the words to read, “fuck them”.

Vearey himself had not posted the words “fuck them”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police investigators mull over multiple possible meanings of top cop Jeremy Vearey’s ‘moer’

He had previously explained he had used “moer hulle” in his dialect, Afrikaaps, and not Afrikaans, and that he had meant the words as encouragement.

This is what led to Vearey challenging his dismissal via the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council.

Finding set aside

Daily Maverick previously reported that in November 2021 the bargaining council ruled his dismissal was fair.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Axed detective boss Jeremy Vearey’s dismissal ‘is fair’, bargaining council rules

Safety and Security Bargaining Council arbitrator Imthiaz Sirkhot found: “The trust relationship between [Vearey, the applicant] and [SAPS, the respondent] has broken down irretrievably.

“It would be intolerable for the Applicant to remain in the service of the Respondent. The only sanction that can be imposed is one of dismissal.

“I see no reason to interfere with the sanction of dismissal. The sanction of dismissal is appropriate under the circumstances.”

Tuesday’s labour court ruling, though, found that the hearing that led up to that finding was not fair.

‘Mini insurrection’ hyperbole

It said Vearey had not been charged with inciting others to commit violence.

“However, the Award and transcript of the [arbitration] proceedings reflect that the Respondent’s evidence was heavily weighted to supporting the proposition that he had misconducted himself in this way,” the labour court ruling said.

It said the bargaining council arbitrator dealt with responses to Vearey’s (presumably Facebook) posts “to press home the theme of incitement to unlawful conduct”.

Referencing some of those responses, the arbitrator concluded that: “The Applicant [Vearey] was encouraging a mini insurrection against the leadership of the Respondent [SAPS].”

Tuesday’s labour court ruling pointed out that the arbitration proceedings “took place in the wake of the July 2021 ‘insurrection’” – when there was extreme unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng leading to the deaths of more than 350 people.

“This may have contributed to a certain extent to the hyperbole in the [arbitrator’s] statement,” it stated.

The ruling did not make an order as to costs on Tuesday.

Cop collusion context

When Vearey was in the police service, he faced accusations (that did not lead to his arrest) that he was corrupt and had rubbed several police bosses and colleagues up the wrong way.

One such example involves an investigation that started around 2013 and became known as Project Impi.

It revealed that certain police officers were smuggling firearms, meant to be destroyed, to gangsters in the Western Cape.

Vearey headed Project Impi with fellow policeman Peter Jacobs, who previously headed Crime Intelligence in the Western Cape, and then nationally.

In June 2016, Vearey and Jacobs were suddenly transferred – some cops saw this as a demotion – within the police service in the Western Cape.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Bullet points – this is what drove victims of cop-smuggled firearms to launch a lawsuit against police

This led to the duo approaching the Cape Town labour court.

In an affidavit in that matter, Vearey said that in the run-up to 2016, he and Jacobs warned police bosses about “the potential liability on the part of the SAPS”.

“They had been in possession of thousands of firearms which they were supposed to destroy,” Vearey’s affidavit said.

“Instead they were released to gangs who were killing many members of the public with them.”

Vearey also stated that Project Impi was “decimated on the orders of the SAPS management”.

Daily Maverick has reported how Western Cape families of people murdered and wounded, allegedly with cop-smuggled firearms picked up via Project Impi, are pushing ahead with a class action lawsuit because they want police accountability.

If that case proceeds, Vearey may be called as a witness. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jean Racine says:

    As Jeremy would say, “Time longer than rope!”

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Will any cops swing for this gross Mal administration of justice? In your dreams. And who pays for this circus we call policing? Please remember this story when you place your X on May 29th!

  • Arthur Lilford says:

    I am not surprised with anything these clowns do

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      This is my opinion only but to me it is obvious that “moer hulle” is slang intended as “get them guys”, and even if wrong, I believe it would be difficult to prove me to be.

      Following this line of thought makes it highly likely that his firing was a police agenda.

      Consequently downgrading your clowns to state armed criminal clowns.

      Our South African circus – fear the fun.

  • Stephen Pearce says:

    Wonder if the statement of a previous Minister of Sports was raised (ie ‘moer hulle’) – he famsously uttered this phrase as the Spingboks (if memory serves) were leaving to a major rugby tournament. IF the finding is correct (ie in Veary’s case), then surely the Minister was inciting South Africans to acts of violence against their opponnets. Oh, and by the way – he also served as Minister of Police at some point.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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