#UnrestSA: Portfolio Committee on Police to probe intelligence provided

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SAPS officers stop looters from looting in central Durban.
SAPS officers stop looters from looting in central Durban.
  • The Portfolio Committee on Police's inquiry into the recent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng will look into what intelligence was available to law enforcement.
  • This has proved to be one of the most significant unresolved matters in the aftermath of the looting and violence.
  • The committee deliberated on its draft terms of reference for the inquiry on Tuesday and will adopt it next week.

What "relevant information and intelligence were available to the security agencies prior to, during and after" last month's deadly unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng will be one of the aspects of the Portfolio Committee on Police's inquiry into the unrest, according to its draft terms of reference.

The committee discussed the draft terms of reference during its meeting on Tuesday.

Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson asked members to furnish her with their thoughts on what should be contained in the terms of reference, which will be adopted at its meeting a week later.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said the essence of their inquiry would be about intelligence, adding he feared they were going to be confronted by "people saying it is confidential".  

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He added he wanted clarity by the next meeting that the committee would have powers to be provided with that information.

"We can't continue, and then we hear 'It's classified, it's classified'. Then there's no use in further investigation," Groenewald said.

Pieter Groenewald. Picture: Lulama Zenzile

Joemat-Pettersson added he raised a pertinent question, and before the inquiry started, all the legal processes must be in place and "absolutely thoroughly looked at".

"We have to move within the ambit of the law, and if we do not do this, then this inquiry will just be a waste of time, and it would be fruitless expenditure, it would create expectations, and we would not be able to meet those expectations," she said.

Whether intelligence had been provided to the police before the outbreak of the violence last month after former president Jacob Zuma was arrested has proved to be a controversial issue.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told the committee while on its oversight visit to KwaZulu-Natal last month - incidentally responding to a question posed by Groenewald - the police did not receive a report from the State Security Agency (SSA).

Former state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo denied this.

The government has not taken any steps to provide clarity on the matter since.

News24 recently reported Cele did not endorse a budget for the police's Secret Services account in June, meaning intelligence operations ground to halt, and agents and sources could not be tasked to gather ground-level information.

In a move believed to be precipitated by the unrest, President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the long-troubled SSA into the Presidency and moved Dlodlo to her previous portfolio of public service and administration.

ALSO READ | Anatomy of a violent July: Data mapping shows unrest was part of tactical plan to shut down SA

Testifying before the Zondo Commission last week, Ramaphosa said it was not "unreasonable" Zuma's alleged armed spy army was behind the unrest.

The inquiry got off to a shambolic start.

After receiving a letter from House chairperson Cedric Frolick, Joemat-Pettersson called a meeting with the other committees with oversight over the security cluster to receive a briefing from the ministers in the security cluster.

At that meeting, on 30 July, MPs decided not to listen to the briefing and said an ad hoc committee should be established.

At the following week's meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee, Frolick gave his account of how the inquiry should have been instituted; in effect saying the initial meeting was incorrect.

He said there was never a request for the meeting to occur, and he had no intention of asking the committee to do what it has done during the meeting.

Tina Joemat-Pettersson
Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
Netwerk24 Adrian de Kock

Tuesday's meeting of the police committee follows a letter from Frolick on 10 August, in which he asked the committee to focus and deal with matters within its mandate and oversight responsibilities relating to the unrest in terms of the relevant legislation and rules.

Joemat-Pettersson, on Tuesday, insisted she initially did as was instructed and in terms of the rules, and the first meeting was called with Frolick's approval, which she has on record.

"Unfortunately, the perception was created that no permission was granted to the meeting," she said.

A senior parliamentary legal advisor has already been assigned to the committee for the inquiry.

The committee would go back to KwaZulu-Natal and Frolick had allotted the required funds and time, Joemat-Pettersson said.

In terms of the draft terms of reference of the Portfolio Committee on Police's inquiry into the unrest, the committee will enquire into, report on and make recommendations concerning the following:

  • Establish and consider what relevant information and intelligence was available to the security agencies prior to, during and after the violence. 
  • Establish and consider how the violence unfolded and was allowed to spread, despite the presence of the security agencies.
  • Establish and consider how police officers in both the Metro Police and the SAPS made themselves guilty of participating in the looting and the consequence management for such officers.
  • Establish what resources, equipment, and staff were available before and during the unrest and the challenges experienced in addressing the unrest.
  • Establish what consequence management has been put in place and the lessons learnt moving forward.
  • Establish what leadership was given to all law enforcement agencies during the unfolding of the violence.
  • Examine the documents and electronic material made available to the committee to verify the statements made during the said committee meetings.
  • Establish and consider whether the relevant statements were made in compliance with National Instruction 156.
  • Establish and consider whether the relevant conduct by the officers is in line with sound governance principles.
  • Establish and consider whether the violence was organised and what the role of the instigators and perpetrators were, what happened to them and whether they have been arrested and being charged.
  • Establish the levels of co-operation between law enforcement agencies and the challenges experienced in respect of co-operation before, during and after the unrest.
  • Establish the impact of the unrest on the communities.
  • Make available its report to the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.

These are subject to final approval by the committee at its meeting next week.

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