Senior police officers found guilty of defending Phiyega

2017-01-27 09:25
Riah Phiyega (File)

Riah Phiyega (File)

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Johannesburg – Two senior SAPS members, who worked under suspended National Commissioner Riah Phiyega, have been found guilty of misconduct.

An internal disciplinary report by inquiry chairperson MJ Ramaepadi said that both Lieutenant General Nobubele Mbekela and Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale were found guilty of misconduct, although they were found to have not deliberately misled Parliament's portfolio committee on police.

Makgale declined to comment to News24 on the findings of the report, while Mbekela could not be immediately reached for comment.

The two were suspended after they publicly defended Phiyega, who has also been placed on suspension pending an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

Makgale, an SAPS spokesperson, was suspended for releasing media statements defending Phiyega and allegedly misleading the portfolio committee.

Mbekela was suspended after she did a radio interview claiming that Phiyega was being targeted because she is a woman.

'Unco-operative, obstructive'

The disciplinary report charged Makgale, the head of corporate communication, with one charge of misconduct and Mbekela, the deputy national commissioner for corporate services management, with three charges of misconduct.

They were both charged after a media statement was released following a meeting of the portfolio committee on police held on August 12, 2015.

"It is alleged that you committed serious misconduct in that during a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Police... on 12 August 2015, during which aspects were canvassed relating to a meeting of the SAPS Board of Commissioners ('BoC') in Limpopo on 15 and 16 July 2015...and relating to a statement dated 1 August 2015 and headed 'The SAPS Board of Commissioners fully supports General Riah Phiyega'," the report said.

It was alleged that they both sought to mislead the portfolio committee on what happened at the BoC meeting, that they provided false information to the portfolio committee, were unco-operative and obstructive, and conducted themselves in an improper and disgraceful manner.

Mbekela was further charged for giving an interview on Radio 702 in which she declared support for Phiyega, and for making disrespectful allegations against Acting National Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane in her affidavit before the Labour Court.
They both pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Misrepresentation

The disciplinary inquiry looked at the findings of the portfolio committee on police which found that the statement released after the August 12 meeting was aimed at influencing the public discourse and process of the president in response to the findings of the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, and that with the BoC, they chose to enter political terrain.

City Press reported in December that a board of inquiry into Phiyega's fitness to hold office recommended that she be dismissed.

That inquiry's report allegedly implicates Phiyega in wrongdoing in connection with the Marikana massacre in 2012 when 34 miners at Lonmin platinum mine were killed – some shot in the back while running away from police – during wage protests.

The inquiry's report allegedly also finds that she had misled the Farlam Commission which investigated the events at Marikana.

With regards to Mbekela and Makgale, the police portfolio committee found that senior managers in the police misrepresented to the committee what had happened at the BoC meeting, particularly because they indicated that Phiyega had not been there, when she in fact had been.

Both Mbekela and Makgale's legal teams argued that the disciplinary steps against the two were not entirely in accordance with the recommendations of the portfolio committee and that recommendations were being implemented selectively.

'Personal attack'

This was because only Mbekela and Makgale were being charged when the committee recommended that steps be taken against all the provincial commissioners, two deputy national commissioners and a divisional commissioner for human resources.

In his evidence against Mbekela, the Acting National Commissioner Lieutenant General Phahlane said he felt that when she declared her public support for Phiyega, Mbekela was undermining and attacking the president.

Phahlane also indicated that he found it disrespectful that in court papers Mbekela had not referred to him by rank, and that she had used the opportunity to "launch a personal attack" against him.

Phahlane said he felt that Makgale had displayed arrogance toward the portfolio committee and he did not want him as a spokesperson.

The report indicates that under cross-examination, Phahlane said he felt Makgale's position was unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer’s money.

"In my view, there is no reason why I should have my equal talking on my behalf," Phahlane is quoted as saying.

Mbekela's legal team argued that she had a right to freedom of expression when she spoke to Radio 702, and the comments against Phahlane had been made in court documents and should be regarded as privileged.

Mitigation of sentencing

The chairperson said in the report that during the inquiry "it became common cause that General Mbekela and Lieutenant General Makgale provided incomplete information to the Portfolio Committee".

The chairperson found that Mbekela and Makgale did not however attempt to mislead the portfolio committee in the August 1 press statement.

The report did find that information on Phiyega's participation in the meeting had not been disclosed, that the two had provided incomplete information to the committee and they did not provide clear answers.

Because of this they were both found guilty of the first charge of misconduct.

Mbekela was also found guilty on the second charge because she pledged allegiance to Phiyega in the radio interview.

Mbekela was also found guilty on the third charge as it was disrespectful to refer to the acting national commissioner as "malicious" and "a law unto himself".

"This becomes even more damaging when regard is had to one of the Constitutional mandates of the SAPS, being to uphold the law," the disciplinary report found.

Mitigation of sentencing is still to take place.

Read more on:    saps  |  riah phiyega  |  khomotso phahlane  |  johannesburg

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