Former police commissioner had 'no grudges' against ex-Mandela cop

2017-05-15 18:46
Former national police commissioner George Fivaz leaves court on Monday after testifying (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Former national police commissioner George Fivaz leaves court on Monday after testifying (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town - A former national police commissioner who was asked to appoint an elite presidential investigative unit in 1996 on Monday said he had nothing against the man that the late Nelson Mandela had hand-picked to head up the unit.

Ex-commissioner George Fivaz took the stand in the Western Cape High Court to explain the circumstances that sparked a probe into Major General Andre Lincoln and the unit, barely a year after its formation.

Fivaz, who served in the position between 1995 and 1999, said Lincoln created the impression that he was supposed to report directly to the president.

"It later on seemed to me that he is deliberately trying to create a situation where he was not reporting to the commissioner of police as arranged by the late president; that he would like to have his own reporting line."

Complaints had also started pouring in about unit members doing their own thing and not following rules.

Fivaz was told that they had turned into a "rogue unit". 

Members were said to be booking out sentenced prisoners on false statements, living in safe houses with their families, renting vehicles, and giving police cars to informants to roam the streets.

"That kind of thing is totally, totally out of line."

Claiming R15m in damages

He said that, as the appointing officer, he was forced to follow up.

"I never had any grudges against director Lincoln, till today, I have to say," said a smartly dressed Fivaz.

"It was all about the efficiency of the unit, the compliance of the unit and obedience to the law by members of the SA Police Service."

Fivaz had testified in previous, related court cases.

The current case was brought by Lincoln.

He was arrested when criminal allegations against him and others in the unit surfaced. Lincoln faced 47 criminal charges and was convicted of 17 in 2003. He appealed and was acquitted of all the charges.

Lincoln is now claiming R15m in damages from the minister of safety and security (now the minister of police) for alleged malicious prosecution.

Fivaz testified that on June 11, 1996, he met with Mandela at his official residence and was given a sealed envelope with a note he had written.

The note was a request for him to appoint the unit, headed by Lincoln, to investigate Vito Palazzolo, a Cape Town-based Italian mafioso, and his links to government officials, police, and businessmen.

Fivaz asked Mandela whether he knew Lincoln. He apparently replied that people had told him Lincoln was doing well and was trustworthy.

'Allegations of misconduct'

He then made an appointment with Lincoln to explain what was expected of him and the unit.

"Numerous hiccups" relating to the reporting of the unit followed in the months after that.

He used a police unit focused on efficiency to check on the presidential unit.

The goal was to see whether the unit was complying with rules and regulations, and using state resources efficiently.

"It was not a typical crime investigation. It was more an effectiveness evaluation."

As a result, he called Lincoln to meet with him. They met with then deputy president Thabo Mbeki at his home.

"The discussion was around the fact that Lincoln picked up I am investigating him and that I am not trusting him," he said.

Lincoln believed police members were putting up obstacles and sabotaging the unit.

Fivaz said Mbeki had agreed with him that he had to investigate very serious allegations against Lincoln and his unit.

"It came out that the unit is extremely ineffective and there are serious allegations of misconduct that could also mean criminal conduct."

'Irate instructions'

After concerns about not trusting anyone in the police service, Lincoln suggested Leonard Knipe lead the investigation, said Fivaz.

"We left the meeting with my commitment that I will make sure that there is not a witch-hunt against Mr Lincoln and his unit."

He also sent out a circular reconfirming the mandate of the unit and emphasising the line of command.

According to the particulars of claim, Lincoln was "unlawfully investigated and arrested", and the prosecution against him was started by a Director (Brigadier) Leonard Knipe and Senior Superintendent (Colonel) Piet Rossouw.

This happened in 1998, after Lincoln started to investigate senior police officers and filed reports to Mbeki.

"The then national commissioner of police, George Fivaz, who disliked [Lincoln's] direct access to the president, instructed Director Knipe and Senior Superintendent Rossouw to investigate [Lincoln]."

Knipe and Rossouw, according to the particulars of claim, acted "on the irate instructions" of Fivaz.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  andre lincoln  |  thabo mbeki  |  cape town  |  crime  |  police

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