Explained: the story behind the probe into SA’s acting police commissioner


South African Police Union president Mpho Kwinika‚ who said these words on Wednesday‚ is deeply sceptical about the investigation into acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane.

The country’s top cop is under intense scrutiny by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) which is probing his ownership of several vehicles‚ an expensive sound system and an upmarket property.

“We strongly believe that there are ulterior political motives involved‚” Kwinika told TMG Digital.

“The minister (Police Minister Nathi Nhleko) is the one who started this all with his attempts to have (IPID) head‚ Robert McBride removed. We believe that there are attempts to have the entire security sector implode and tear each other apart.

“There have been investigations into people who have done nothing wrong‚ with others‚ especially those in crime intelligence‚ who have clearly done wrong‚ left alone‚” he said.

McBride and Phahlane were good at their jobs but were being used‚ he cautioned.

The war between Phahlane and McBride is indicative of a broader fight within the security cluster‚ with tentacles reaching into SAPS‚ crime intelligence‚ the Hawks‚ IPID and the National Prosecuting Authority.

IPID raided Phahlane’s house last week. Linked to this are Nhleko’s attempts to get rid of McBride who won a Constitutional Court bid to declare his suspension unconstitutional. McBride‚ former Hawks head Anwa Dramat and former deputy SARS commissioner Ivan Pillay all faced criminal charges that were subsequently dropped. They claimed to have been targeted by Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza on the instructions of Nhleko.

The fight has pinned heads of state institutions against each other‚ and in turn weakened their organisations. As the scrap continues‚ it is unclear who the “good” and “bad” guys are‚ but to quote deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa it shows a “government at war with itself”.

So who are the players in this spider web of intrigue?

Kgomotso Phahlane He has been acting national police commissioner since October 2015 after President Jacob Zuma suspended Riah Phiyega. Prior to his appointment‚ he headed the SAPS Forensic Service from 2012. Phahlane has faced the ire of Robert McBride‚ the head of IPID‚ and has been investigated for corruption after a complaint lodged by controversial forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Robert McBride

The former metro police chief was appointed to lead IPID in February 2014. His problems coincided with the appointment of Nhleko in June 2014. In March 2015‚ McBride was suspended as head of IPID in connection with an investigation into the rendition of five Zimbabwean suspects in 2010. He was later charged with fraud and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly tampering with a report. That case was dropped. Then he won a case in the Constitutional Court that found Nhleko did not have the authority to remove him from his job.

Phahlane has claimed that he is being pursued by McBride for corruption as part of the fallout caused by McBride’s dispute with Nhleko.

Berning Ntlemeza

Major-General Berning Ntlemeza was appointed to lead the Hawks after his predecessor‚ Anwa Dramat‚ stepped down with a golden handshake. Ntlemeza’s appointment was controversial. He was previously found by the courts to lack integrity and was exposed for lying under oath. He is fighting a legal challenge to have him declared unfit to head the Hawks.

Ntlemeza has been linked to the bringing of charges against McBride‚ Dramat and former SARS deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay. He was the man in charge when charges were formulated against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The cases were later dropped.

Ntlemeza was exposed for having put pressure on NPA boss Shaun Abrahams‚ who decided to drop charges against Gordhan.

-TMG Digital/The Times

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