Riah Phiyega faces the axe

2015-04-05 15:00

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Police commissioner may ‘face charges’ for her role in the police operation that led to the deaths of 34 miners in Marikana

National police commissioner General Riah Phiyega is against the ropes – she’s facing recommendations from four reports that say she should face charges or “remedial action”.

Eight senior sources within or close to the police told City Press this week that the Marikana Commission of Inquiry report, handed to President Jacob Zuma this week by Judge Ian Farlam, recommends that Phiyega “face charges” for her role in the police operation that led to the deaths of 34 striking miners in August 2012.

A senior government source told City Press this week that Phiyega is now “fighting for her life”.

City Press has learnt that Farlam’s report recommends that other senior police officers should face the music too, including North West provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo, her deputy in charge of operations, Major General William Mpembe, and his fellow deputy commissioner, Major General Ganasen Naidoo.

None of the sources to whom City Press spoke were aware of the exact charges Phiyega and her subordinates may face.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale said he could not comment on the Marikana report because Phiyega had not received a copy.

Dali Mpofu, the lawyer for the miners wounded in and arrested after the Marikana massacre, said he would not be surprised if Farlam’s report recommended that Phiyega be charged in connection with planning the assault on the miners, perjury and concealing what happened at “scene two”, where police pursued and shot fleeing miners.

“In our final arguments, we asked that Phiyega and Mbombo be charged or, at the very least, face disciplinary action,” Mpofu said.

Neither Mpofu nor his clients have seen the report. Mpofu has asked for the report to be made public.

“In the next few weeks, I will hear from my clients as to what course of action they would like instituted if the report is not made public. For now, we will give the president due time to consider the recommendations,” he said.

However, the Farlam report is just the latest report that appears to question Phiyega’s fitness to hold office.

City Press has learnt of three other complaints and recommendations made against Phiyega since 2013.

.?The latest is an “adverse finding” against Phiyega of a draft report compiled by the “reference group” – a panel of legal and security experts established by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko in October. The group was set up to investigate a variety of police issues, including its administration, promotions, and disciplinary and criminal proceedings involving senior management.

The group was formed after Nhleko wrote to Phiyega to say that he had received a number of “concerns” about the functioning of the SA Police Service. Phiyega told Nhleko she would not cooperate with the group and then complained about it to Zuma.

A member of the reference group told City Press this week that a draft report had made “adverse findings” against Phiyega, and recommended that “remedial action” be taken against her. “The team found that there was poor leadership and recommended that the minister take appropriate steps.”

Makgale said he was unable to comment as the reference group “never discussed their findings” with Phiyega.

.?In September last year, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declined to prosecute Phiyega on charges of defeating the ends of the justice after she was caught on a legal wiretap tipping off Western Cape commissioner Arno Lamoer about a Hawks investigation against him.

On the wiretap, Phiyega is heard talking to Lamoer about a Hawks investigation revolving around his alleged corrupt relationship with police benefactor and multimillionaire businessman Salim Dawjee.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigated the case. Although the NPA declined to prosecute Phiyega on the basis that “there were no reasonable prospects of a successful prosecution”, Ipid and a senior prosecutor recommended she face internal police disciplinary proceedings for irregular and inappropriate behaviour. City Press learnt from two senior sources that “nothing” has come of this recommendation.

Makgale said Phiyega was not aware of Ipid’s findings.

.?Another serious case against Phiyega centres around a top-priority Hawks, Ipid and NPA investigation into the alleged corrupt relationship between the KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner, Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, and Durban businessman Thoshan Panday.

City Press has learnt that suspended Ipid head Robert McBride formally recommended to Phiyega that she “start disciplinary action” against Ngobeni.

“It was after McBride asked Phiyega to take action against Ngobeni that Phiyega told Ngobeni: ‘They’re asking for your suspension, but don’t worry, over my dead body’,” a senior police official close to the Ngobeni matter said.

Makgale denied any such discussion took place, and added that Phiyega “does not know Panday and has never received a phonecall from him”.

A senior source close to Ipid said Nhleko was “directly” briefed on “Phiyega’s role protecting Ngobeni” and that a “formal recommendation was made that Phiyega be suspended”.

McBride, who was suspended last week, said he “could not respond to any media questions”.

The Ngobeni case involves charges of fraud, racketeering and bribery amounting to more than R60?million, as well as bribery charges against Panday and police Colonel Navin Madhoe, who are accused of attempting to bribe KwaZulu-Natal’s Hawks boss, Major General Johan Booysen, with R2?million.

Booysen was overseeing the investigation into Ngobeni and Panday’s allegedly fraudulent relationship. This investigation led to a high court interdict, which Booysen obtained last year, prohibiting Phiyega from firing him.

“It’s not only the Marikana recommendations that are causing her headaches. She has other equally large fish to fry,” said the senior government source. “There’s no way the president and the minister can continue to look the other way on Phiyega.”

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