KZN top cop Ngobeni escapes fitness inquiry on technicality - court

Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni
Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni

Durban - KZN Police Commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni finds herself back in the office after having successfully rebuffed an attempt by Acting Police Commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane to hold an inquiry into her fitness to hold office.

Ngobeni was suspended in May, and took up her challenge in the Durban High Court.

The controversial provincial commissioner was successful on technical grounds - that Phahlane did not have the powers to establish a panel to test her fitness.  

"It's clear from the provision of Section 207 (2) of the Constitution that the national police commissioner does not have the untrammelled powers to investigate and 'discipline' the provincial commissioner," the judgment read.

Judge Nkosinathi Chili in the Durban High Court on Wednesday further found that establishing a board of inquiry without following the proper notice was "premature, unlawful and falls to be set aside".

Ngobeni's woes stem from her relationship with businessman Thoshan Panday, who has allegedly scored millions in police procurement contracts and tenders.

Links to upper echelons

In the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, police officials discovered a startling rise in the cost of accommodation to deploy cops on operations around the province.

Delving deeper into the sharp rise in spending, they happened upon what they alleged was a corrupt relationship between senior officers in the supply chain management unit and a controversial Durban businessman who was banking millions to secure accommodation as a broker or middle-man.     

Investigating officers then uncovered what they believed to be links to the upper echelons of the provincial police, with Panday paying for the surprise birthday party of Ngobeni’s husband, Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni, at a plush Umhlanga eatery.

A R1.93m draft forensic audit, paid for by the state, revealed how Panday plied key police figures, including Ngobeni, with gifts.

The commissioner, now back in office, has always maintained her innocence, insisting that she had used Panday to plan the party and had then paid for it.

The investigation into Ngobeni and Panday regarding the party was run separately from other criminal probes, with the National Prosecuting Authority declining to prosecute.

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