EXCLUSIVE: IPID orders police boss to stay away from investigations

2017-05-24 14:17
Acting National Police  Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane. (Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Johannesburg - Police watchdog IPID has demanded that the acting police commissioner stay away from any investigation involving its officers.

In a letter  of demand sent to Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, IPID alleges that he used his position to illegally obtain documents related to their investigation against him, and to which a suspect is not supposed to have access.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate makes the following demands in the letter:

  • That Phahlane stay away from any investigation by the SAPS into IPID officials;
  • that he ensure no police officers facing an IPID investigation become involved in any counter-investigation into IPID officials;
  • that the North West detective team ceases investigating IPID officers immediately;
  • that the case be handed to a police officer not under investigation by IPID or who reports to an officer who is under investigation by IPID.
  • the police watchdog wants all communication relating to the assignment of the case to the North West police detective team for investigation, to be disclosed.

The letter, sent by law firm Adams & Adams on behalf of IPID was sent to Phahlane and the provincial commissioners for Gauteng and North West, on May 12.

The law firm said its represents IPID and two of its officers, Mandlakayise Mahlangu and Temane Binang.

READ: IPID recommends that Phahlane be suspended

Corruption case

Mahlangu and Binang are the lead investigators in corruption and defeating the ends of justice cases against Phahlane.

They have been charged and summoned to appear in court at the end of May, following a criminal case Phahlane opened earlier this year.

Phahlane alleged in the case that forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan and his assistant Sarah Jane Trent pretended to be IPID officers when they visited the Sable Hills Estate, where Phahlane lives, as part of Mahlangu's and Temane's investigation.

O'Sullivan and Trent have denied the allegations.

The letter outlines the legal steps Phahlane has taken in retaliation against the IPID investigation against him.

In February, he instituted civil proceedings against the IPID's executive director and other parties (including O'Sullivan and Trent).

In this case, Phahlane sought to review and set aside the search warrant issued as part of the IPID investigation.

According to the letter, even though Phahlane was acting in his personal capacity in the proceedings, it was obvious from the documents exchanged that he "gained access to confidential documentation" that formed part of the IPID's criminal investigation into him.

READ: IPID responds to top cop Phahlane with more financial revelations

Civil proceedings

One of these documents was an application Mahlangu made in terms of section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act to gain access to Phahlane's bank accounts.

"You should not be in possession of the section 205 application in relation to you and you should not have relied on its contents in the civil proceedings," the letter reads.

"You gained access to the section 205 application unlawfully and, in doing so, you have interfered with IPID's investigation.

"It appears that by virtue of your position as acting national police commissioner you are able to access documents relating to a criminal investigation into you, and to place reliance thereon in litigation in your private capacity. That not only undermines the public's trust in your office, but in the South African Police Service as a whole."

In addition to the civil proceedings, Phahlane opened a criminal case against the IPID investigators in January. O'Sullivan and Trent were arrested and charged in the case.

IPID investigators Mahlangu and Binang were informed of the criminal investigation against them in April 2017, when Brigadier Pharasa Ncube, the head of the North West commercial crimes unit, called them, the letter explains.

They met Ncube, Lieutenant-Colonel Mqaba and Captain Molathlegi to discuss this investigation.

On May 9, the IPID officials were summoned to appear in the Pretoria Regional Court on May 30 on various charges related to their case.

At the meetings, the investigators expressed concern that the criminal investigation was being conducted by North West police officers. They asked why the investigation was transferred from Gauteng to North West.

Conflict of interest

Ncube declined to answer the question, according to the letter.

"A further, fundamental, difficulty arises from the investigation of the criminal case by Brigadier Ncube because he himself is the subject of criminal investigations by the IPID."

Ncube, Mqaba and Molathlegi are members of the North West detective squad under the command of Major-General Ntebo "Jan" Mabula, who has been involved in politically-motivated arrests in the past.

"Not only Major-General Mabula, but at least seven other members of his team (Kutumela, Dawood, Kgorane, Dube, Mokoena, Manamela) are currently the subject of IPID investigations."

These relate to six case of assault GBH (torture) as well as one case of torture and murder, according to the letter.

Binang is personally involved in investigating two of the cases.

"In the circumstances, Binang is now the subject of an investigation by members of the North West Detective Squad who are themselves subject to investigations that are being conducted by Binang."

The law firm said this is a conflict of interest and affects the IPID officials' basic right to a fair and transparent investigation. The situation is inimical to IPID's constitutionally-protected independence and execution of its mandate.

"Put plainly, if IPID investigators investigating police officers are not shielded from the risk of being investigated by the very persons who they are investigating, they will have to operate under a real or, equally significant, a perceived threat of retribution."

The existence of such a perceived or real threat is not permitted in law, the letter reads.

Phahlane was given until May 15 to respond, failing which Adams & Adams would approach the High Court.

Police spokesperson Major-General Sally de Beer said SAPS would not respond to News24's questions on the letter.

"We respect the fact that this matter is before the courts of law and is still the subject of on-going investigations. It is a pity that information has yet again been leaked to the media."

Read more on:    police  |  ipid  |  khomotso phahlane  |  corruption  |  crime

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