Phiyega in battle for her life

2013-11-03 14:00

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‘If it weren’t for the political support, she wouldn’t survive this’

Just months before his suspension, acting crime intelligence head Chris Ngcobo was locked in a bitter dispute with his boss, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.

At the centre of the dispute was the suspension of the chief financial officer of crime intelligence, Brigadier Obed Nemutanzhela.

Two independent sources in the intelligence community have told City Press that Phiyega had instructed Ngcobo to reinstate Nemutanzhela.

He refused to obey the order because he felt it would compromise the investigation.

Nemutanzhela, who is understood to be politically well connected, was suspended by Ngcobo in May for allegedly tipping off fellow crime intelligence operative Captain Morris Tshabalala?–?known by the nickname, “Captain KGB”?– about his imminent arrest.

“Ngcobo told Nemutanzhela in confidence that he would catch ‘Captain KGB’ Morris Tshabalala, then (Nemutanzhela) goes and tips Morris off,” said a source aligned to Ngcobo.

Yesterday, Phiyega’s spokesperson Lieutenant General Solomon Makgale confirmed that Phiyega had instructed Ngcobo to follow due process in conducting a preliminary investigation to establish if there was prima facie evidence to warrant disciplinary action.

“No employee may be suspended without just cause. Any suspension has to be in line with the labour laws,” said Makgale.

He said when Ngcobo “argued that the investigation may be compromised, she decided to allow him to continue”.

After this, Ngcobo was forced to lift Nemutanzhela’s suspension because a period of 60 days had expired without any disciplinary action being taken.

This incident has come to light as Phiyega is locked in a bitter struggle for survival.

It appears that her suspension of Ngcobo has set off a campaign by disgruntled senior managers in the police service to discredit her.

Crime intelligence sources have told City Press there was a strong case against Nemutanzhela, with one saying Ngcobo had even obtained a confession from him to say that he had spoken to Tshabalala.

Tshabalala made headlines in June when he was arrested in connection with seven cash-in-transit heists in which more than R30?million was stolen.

It subsequently emerged that Tshabalala became a rising star in crime intelligence even though he had spent 15 years on the run after being convicted of armed robbery.

In a suspension letter dated May 22 2013, which City Press was shown by Makgale, Ngcobo told Nemutanzhela he was being suspended over:

»?The hacking of the SA Police Service websites;

»?Discussing “a pending investigation with an individual who is suspected of having committed a crime”; and

»?Removing classified documents from police premises.

This news comes as the crime intelligence unit was plunged into fresh chaos last week when Phiyega suspended Ngcobo over alleged discrepancies between his qualifications and what the police have on record.

Phiyega claimed this was part of her drive to clean up the police.

But shortly after the announcement, it emerged that there was a criminal charge of defeating the ends of justice laid against her.

This was for allegedly tipping off Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer about a pending corruption investigation against him.

A letter Phiyega wrote to senior police management calling for their support has also been leaked.

Police sources have described Phiyega’s letter as a “desperate” attempt to gain support from the police’s top brass because she only had political support from police minister Nathi Mthethwa.

They have described the mood in the corridors of Wachthuis, the police’s Pretoria headquarters, as tense.

A senior police source said: “This letter is Phiyega’s desperate attempt to gain the ground she has lost among her colleagues from the day she was appointed national commissioner.

“If it wasn’t for the political support she has, Phiyega would not survive this.”

In the letter, a copy of which is in City Press’s possession, the embattled Phiyega urges her colleagues “to stand up, raise their voices against those who want to drag us backward”.

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