The arrest of cop-turned-advocate Malesela Teffo twice within the space of two weeks has upset those in his corner.
Teffo was initially arrested two weeks ago on a charge of contempt of court and released after paying bail. City Press understands that the charge related to his alleged failure to appear before court in a labour-related matter.
He was again arrested on Tuesday by Hillbrow police in connection with a charge of a threat of assault and trespassing. He appeared at the Hillbrow Magistrates’ Court on Friday for a bail hearing, but Magistrate Phindi Keswa referred the matter to the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court. The case is scheduled to be heard tomorrow.
Teffo has been remanded at the notorious Johannesburg Correctional Centre, better known as Sun City, a move that has caused those close to him be concerned for his safety.
The arrest comes after he sent a dossier containing explosive allegations to President Cyril Ramaphosa on September 28 against national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole, who is facing possible suspension.
This was not the first dossier that was sent to Ramaphosa in relation to allegations of mismanagement within the police service.
Teffo had also sent letters to the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, relating to government’s failure to reinstate officials whom he represented and whose dismissals he successfully challenged.
Delivering her order on Friday, Keswa said she could not deal with Teffo’s application because she was awaiting the outcome of his complaint against her. Teffo filed a complaint against Keswa and other court personnel at the Hillbrow Magistrates’ Court to a senior magistrate last year, alleging that they were in cahoots with police officials who wanted him arrested. Keswa said Teffo claimed that he had been prejudiced. She said he believed that the charges against him were manipulated and that he was being victimised.
After his complaint, she recused herself from his matter, which was then transferred to another court. At the second court, she said, Teffo made similar allegations against its presiding officer.
Keswa said: “I was served with a complaint that was raised against me by Teffo, [containing] allegations that I am a corrupt individual and that he is of the view that I’m working with the investigating officer as well as the state prosecutor. He requested that I be investigated and that the investigation should not end within the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court [but be] taken to the Magistrates Commission. He is of the view that I need to be disciplined and that there must be a disciplinary hearing that needs to be entertained against myself as I am an unethical, fraudulent individual and incompetent magistrate [who] cannot be trusted with the proceedings of the court.”
Teffo was of the view that he would not receive a fair trial.
“He indicated that he is of the view that I am the main culprit ... He wrote it in bold that ‘Keswa is the main culprit. She is the person who needs to be investigated.’ The matter is still being investigated, hence the court requested that we do not entertain these proceedings,” she said.
Despite repeated pleas from Hartley Ngoato for Keswa to divorce matters and deal with the bail application, the latter would not budge.
Ngoato argued that it is “unconstitutional” for the state to have placed Teffo’s matter before Keswa, who had already recused herself and, on the day, had his matter transferred to another court for a bail application.
He said it was in the interest of justice that Teffo be released: “We cannot pass judgment because of his past … We need to remain professional in terms of our responsibilities … This court should not be influenced by outside issues of the body politic … You represent the court; you represent justice … My application before [you] is [that the] accused has a right to be heard for bail.”
City Press learnt that human rights activist Mary de Haas had sent an email to Hillbrow police, the parliamentary portfolio committee on police and to Ramaphosa’s office, decrying Teffo’s arrest.
De Haas sent the email on Wednesday: “I have been advised that Teffo, another human rights defender, was arrested on a charge that apparently does not have due legal standing and that he is detained at your station. I believe that this arrest is malicious and is linked to his human rights work, including his [defence] of the rights of SAPS [SA Police Service] members.”
As a result of his human rights work, she said, Teffo’s life was in constant danger, including while in custody.
“From my own research and monitoring policing in South Africa, I know that there are deep divisions in the SAPS and that some members may not be sympathetic to his work.
“For the past 30 years, I have been supporting good policing in [KwaZulu-Natal] and trying to assist in exposing incompetent or corrupt policing, which risks the lives of colleagues and members of the public, so I speak with some authority on the subject.”
De Haas said she had not received a response or acknowledgement from either of the parties involved.
SITOLE TO ANSWER
Tina Joemat-Pettersson, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on police, confirmed receipt of De Haas’ letter and the dossier that Teffo had sent to Ramaphosa, and said that they had responded to the advocate in writing. She said his first arrest was “very sharply raised in the committee” on November 10.
“It appears that there was a warrant of arrest issued by a court of law. The national [police] commissioner provided an explanation and has been asked to look into the cases of members whom the SAPS have not reinstated after they won their cases. We are awaiting a response from the SAPS.”
Joemat-Pettersson said the committee had a strong record of speaking against mismanagement, that it is committed to fighting corruption and that it “has on every occasion and meeting with the SAPS raised its concerns on the very matters raised by Teffo”.