Witch hunt or law breakers? Unpacking the City of Cape Town’s anti-crime unit saga

2017-10-05 14:24
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Netwerk24)

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula. (Netwerk24) (Cornel van Heerden)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


We need to deal with the workings of the party - Maimane on DA suspensions in CT

2017-10-04 15:35

DA leader Mmusi Maimane says the aim of the party is to focus on issues and make sure the Cape Town caucus works as a collective, following the brief suspension of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and mayoral committee member JP Smith.WATCH

Cape Town - A formal criminal complaint should be lodged against metro police officers, or special investigators, from the City of Cape Town, if they overstepped the line and did investigative work outside of their mandate, according to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula’s spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga.

If this does not happen, the matter will simply be treated as a rumour, he told News24 on Thursday.

“We need for a formal complaint to be laid or it’s a witch hunt,” he said.

'Rumour unless formalised'

If a complaint was not lodged and police were expected to investigate the matter, Mhaga said police would then have to investigate "every single rumour".

African National Congress (ANC) Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs said it was planning to lodge a complaint with police, after he earlier in the week called for Mbalula to shut down the metro police, which he described as a “rogue establishment”.

Jacobs and Mhaga were commenting on details that surfaced from a spat within the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the City of Cape Town. It recently emerged that Mayor Patricia de Lille wanted to have the city’s special investigations unit (SIU) shut down. 

Its mandate was changed and its functions streamlined.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: Murder, irregularity claims surface after De Lille 'shuts down' City of Cape Town investigative unit

The unit was under the leadership of mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services JP Smith, who, through questioning De Lille’s reasoning for clamping down on it, touched on corruption claims relating to her.

De Lille and Smith were this week placed on special leave from the DA as a result of the spat.

On Monday she said she had briefed her lawyers on defamatory remarks Smith had made and they would advise her on what route to take.

The SIU is now named the safety and security internal inspectorate and may not investigate external matters like it previously did.

However, Smith said to claim it was no longer allowed to run investigations as it has been doing for years, means all other specialist units should also cease from external probes.

Intelligence gathering

Smith, in an August 20 communication to, among others, DA leader Mmusi Maimane, said several city units investigated external matters.

He said the metro police gathered crime intelligence and handed this information to SAPS.

According to the Constitution, in terms of intelligence gathering: “Any intelligence service, other than any intelligence division of the defence force or police service, may be established only by the President, as head of the national executive, and only in terms of national legislation.”

However, Gareth Newham, the head of the governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, explained that the legal definition of “intelligence,” as mentioned in the Constitution, may not have the same meaning as what Smith was referring to.

He said the Constitution referred to “intrusive surveillance” - encroaching on someone’s private space in order to get information, for example, accessing bank accounts.

Passing on information

Newham said Smith was likely referring to “information about crime you can get from open sources”.

An example of this would be a metro police office being approached by someone who says drugs are being kept in a particular house.

“They [the metro police officers] don’t have the mandate to investigate,” Newham said. “They can pass on the information to SAPS.”

He said metro police officers would be acting illegally if they were doing “covert investigations”. 

If this had indeed happened, Newham said a criminal complaint could be lodged with police.

The City of Cape Town’s website said the metro police comprises of various units.

This includes a strategic surveillance unit, which constantly monitored 560 cameras throughout Cape Town.

City's profiles on drug dealers

It also included a gang unit.

“We identify gangs and drug hot spots; build profiles of gangs and drug dealers; co-ordinate the execution of integrated search warrants; obstruct gang and drug networks with roadblocks; participate in local drug action committees; and contribute generally to restorative justice,” the website said.

In his August 20 submission, Smith said the city was not prohibited from investigating matters.

He said that several city units did external investigative work including the metal theft unit, vice squad, which helped police in human trafficking cases, and the ghost squad, which targeted drag races.

He said the metro police’s gang and drug task team did “extensive crime intelligence gathering and external criminal investigations”.

This information, Smith said, was handed to SAPS officers.

Police fight crime - De Lille

On Monday, in a statement, De Lille lashed out at him, saying: “We all know that crime fighting is the responsibility of the SAPS under National Government. JP Smith wants to play cowboys and crooks by releasing all kinds of statements that the Metro Police is responsible for fighting crime.

“The task of the Metro Police Department in terms of legislation is enforcement of by-laws and regulations, traffic laws, and crime prevention.”

Last Friday the city issued a statement saying it was discovered the city’s internal investigations unit was exceeding its mandate and investigating criminal matters, which was the mandate of SAPS.

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

News24 (@News24) | Twitter

The latest Tweets from News24 (@News24). News24 is Southern Africa and Africa's premier online news resource reaching over 2.3 million local users each month. South Africa

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

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.