EXCLUSIVE: Inside the City of Cape Town's DA meltdown: Demands, emails and mounting pressure

2017-10-04 09:46
Mayco member JP Smith (Jenni Evans, News24)

Mayco member JP Smith (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town – A flurry of emails pushing for the City of Cape Town’s now-controversial special investigations unit (SIU) to be shut down marked the run up to Mayor Patricia de Lille and MMC for safety, security and social services JP Smith being placed on special leave from the DA this week.

The emails, between influential city figures, show there was pressure from De Lille to have the SIU, which was overseen by Smith, shut down as soon as possible.

This matter forms the core of fresh tensions between the two.

On Tuesday, the DA announced De Lille and Smith had been placed on special leave – after De Lille issued a statement on Monday saying she had briefed her lawyers on "malicious and defamatory remarks" Smith made.

ALSO READ: De Lille hits out at JP Smith over 'malicious, defamatory remarks'

It appeared she was referring to a submission made by Smith, dated August 20 and sent to among others, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, in which he questioned why she wanted the SIU shut down.

In this submission, Smith detailed claims and rumours, which he said others had told him about, in relation to De Lille and corruption.

Under investigation

These claims now form part of an investigation by a special sub-committee of the DA’s federal executive, convened by Maimane, which started its hearings on Tuesday into the political management of the City of Cape Town.

Last week, the city issued a statement saying its internal investigations unit had exceeded its mandate in that it had been probing external matters.

However, in his submission, Smith denied this and said: "To claim that the SIU is not allowed to run the investigations they have been doing for years would mean that all other specialist units [within the city] should stop."

This, he said, would include the city’s metal theft unit, the ghost squad which targeted street drag racers, the vice squad – which Smith said often assisted police in human trafficking cases – and the Metro Police’s gang and drug task team, which he said "does extensive crime intelligence gathering".

The debacle has now become part of a heated political spat with the ANC in the Western Cape calling on Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to close down the city’s Metro Police unit.

On Tuesday, Mbalula’s spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said he had not considered this.

Run up

The recent tensions between Smith and De Lille do not mark the first time the two have not seen eye to eye.

Around October last year, rumours started surfacing that Smith fell out of favour with De Lille, allegedly due to him being outspoken about matters including the national police, who fall under the ANC. She had apparently planned to effectively demote him when reshuffling her committee.

However, in January when her new mayoral committee was announced, Smith was named as heading the social services and safety portfolio.

De Lille had also announced a shift of her own in January – she resigned as DA leader in the Western Cape, reportedly to focus on her role as mayor.

In 2014, Smith was reportedly to be moved to the housing portfolio in a previous reshuffle by De Lille. But again, he retained his safety and security role.

Smith appears to have a staunch support base within the DA, however, so does De Lille.

A source with intimate knowledge of the situation, however, said De Lille seemed to be alienating herself from some key figures in the party.

Smith’s complaints

In Smith’s August 20 submission on the SIU to Maimane, he referred to a previous complaint headed "Trying to limit functionality of Special Investigations Unit (SIU)".

Smith, in that complaint, said De Lille, City of Cape Town speaker Dirk Smit and a councillor were trying to limit the unit.

In the August 20 submission, Smith said since his initial complaint, "or perhaps even in response" to it, it appeared De Lille and the city speaker "have been busy in earnest trying to shut down the SIU".

He called on the DA leadership to investigate the matter and see to it that the SIU be reinstated and its external investigations be allowed.

"To fail to do so would be an injustice to the residents of the City who depend on us to fill in the ever increasing gaps in policing left by the national SAPS," Smith said in the submission.

Email 'evidence' about SIU shut down

Email correspondences were attached to the submission.

The emails show that: 

On July 10, a staff member on behalf of Smit, who referred to a letter dated May 3 about "investigation of councillors by officials" within the SIU, asked city manager Achmat Ebrahim if the SIU was still functioning. If it was not, he wanted to know what happened to staff who worked in that department.

On the morning of July 11, Ebrahim asked the city’s executive director of safety and security Richard Bosman what actions he had taken with regards to the SIU. He said he wanted to update city speaker Dirk Smit and that "urgent feedback" would be welcome.

On the afternoon of July 11, a staff member, on behalf of Ebrahim, sent an email to Smit. It said he had received an update from Bosman, "who was charged with dealing with the corporate concerns around the SIU".

"It was always my understanding that following on the concerns which have been raised, Mr Bosman was going to revisit the name and mandate of the SIU," the email read.

"Furthermore, he was also going to consider the better utilisation/redeployment of the affected staff and undertook not to fill any further vacancies in that unit."

Ebrahim requested that Bosman finalise the matter without delay.

On August 1, De Lille’s chief of staff sent an email to Ebrahim saying: "The Mayor kindly requests written confirmation that the SIU has been shut down. If it has not been shut down yet, she would like to know why this is the case."

On the morning of August 3, a staff member, on behalf of Ebrahim, emailed Bosman and said concerns about the SIU had been discussed by, among others, De Lille.

"It is quite clear… that the SIU had to be shut down already, and that the staff compliment should have been repurposed to internally serve your Safety and Security Directorate."

This email was marked as of "high" importance.

After midday on August 3, Bosman asked a staff member to "print and open up a working file on the SIU."

Bosman, in a memorandum to Ebrahim on August 4, said the name of the SIU had changed to "Safety and Security Internal Inspectorate". The unit’s mandate had also changed.

ANC aspects

Smith, in his August 20 submission, likened what was happening with the SIU to the same test the ANC faced when shutting down the Scorpions.

"If we have nothing to hide we should have no fear," he said in the submission.

Ironically, Smith’s take on the matter – that if the SIU is limited for doing external investigations then so must other units within the city – mirrors what the ANC is now calling for.

On Tuesday, ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said the Metro Police should be shut down and integrated into the national police.

He described the Metro Police as a "rogue establishment which is politically abused".

Last week, Jacobs had backed De Lille’s decision to have the SIU’s mandate narrowed.

He referred to Smith as a "cowboy".

In her statement on Monday, De Lille also used this word, saying Smith wanted to play "cowboys and crooks by releasing all kinds of statements that the Metro Police is responsible for fighting crime".

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Read more on:    da  |  patricia de lille  |  jp smith  |  cape town  |  politics  |  crime

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