- The Johannesburg Labour Court ordered the termination of a disciplinary inquiry into former Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs.
- Jacobs and five other high-ranking officers face misconduct charges for their role in the "unlawful" use of a secret police slush fund to purchase PPE.
- Jacobs claims he faces the axe because he uncovered corruption in the uppermost ranks of the police.
Former Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs has been thrown a lifeline by the Johannesburg Labour Court which, on Wednesday, interdicted the police from concluding a fraught disciplinary inquiry that could likely have seen him fired.
Jacobs and five other high-ranking officers in the police spook outfit were suspended in December, while facing a raft of misconduct charges over the "unlawful" use of a secret slush fund to bankroll Covid-19 PPE – a precursor to an "expeditious" disciplinary inquiry, which had been set down for hearing in February.
But before a verdict could be delivered, Jacobs launched an urgent court bid to stay the process on the strength that he was a whistleblower, and that his own investigations had uncovered rampant graft within Crime Intelligence - a rot which implicated police top brass, including the national commissioner, Khehla Sitole.
Jacobs, who was summarily demoted in the midst of his court challenge, alleged that Sitole was compromised and, in order to ensure a fair hearing, requested that the disciplinary action against him and his subordinates be adjudicated by the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council (SSSBC).
"The primary issue is that I made a series of disclosures to the national commissioner [Sitole] in terms of the Protected Disclosure Act," Jacobs said in his filings.
"We have been subjected to a series of occupational detriments arising from these disclosures, including the institution of the disciplinary proceedings that form the subject matter of this litigation…we have referred a request for the matter to be dealt with by the SSSBC," he added.
Handing down her ruling on Wednesday, Labour Court Judge Portia Nkutha-Nkontwana ordered that the disciplinary inquiry be terminated, and that the charges against them would be heard by an independent arbiter.
"The internal disciplinary inquiry should terminate and the disciplinary action against the applicants be undertaken...at the SSSBC."
This hearing has been set down for 24 March.
Nkutha-Nkontwana, in her ruling, said Jacobs had first "raised his reservation" about Sitole's impartiality when he, in December, made representations to his boss about why he should not be suspended.
"[This] is due to the fact that he [Jacobs] has been embroiled in investigations against senior staff members of the SAPS, including the national commissioner. He suggested that an independent person be appointed to decide on the issues relating to the disciplinary action taken against him," she said.
"In these proceedings, Jacobs gave a detailed chronicle of the protected disclosures he has been making over a period of two years, the latest being…a month before the suspensions. This evidence is not disputed [by Sitole and the police].
"National commissioner Sitole, however, seems to suggest that, even if the complaints constitute protected disclosures, the Protected Disclosures Act protection would only apply to Jacobs. This contention is untenable," Nkutha-Nkontwana added.
Sitole had argued that the court challenges was merely a delaying tactic, employed at the 11th hour to stave of the inevitable guilty verdict, over Jacobs' refusal to answer to the misconduct charges.News24 previously reported that the contentious disciplinary inquiry had stalled in the starting blocks.
On the first day, Jacobs – through his staff representative Major-General Jeremy Vearey - contended that the chair of the inquiry, Limpopo provincial police commissioner Nneke Ledwaba, and his administrative aids did not hold security clearance.
It was argued that, by taking possession of classified documents to adjudicate the hearing without the requisite clearance, Ledwaba may have committed a crime. The Jacobs quarter had also dug in their heels over the referral to the SSSBC which, in essence, should have seen the inquiry held in abeyance.
Ledwaba, who was unmoved by this, announced that he would deliver a verdict without hearing any defence from the six, setting in motion their approach to the court.
"In the circumstances, the disciplinary inquiry against the applicants, the conduct of Ledwaba, including the consequent verdict, stand to be reviewed and set aside for want of legality," Nkutha-Nkontwana ruled.
As Sitole and Jacobs locked horns in court, Vearey - Western Cape Detectives head - was notified of an internal misconduct probe over social media posts, which "disrespected" Sitole's authority as top cop and, on Wednesday, was warned of his looming suspension.
In a notice, obtained by News24, Sitole called on Vearey to make representations as to why he should not be suspended.
"You allegedly brought the name of the employer into disrepute by posting images and messages, and causing same to be circulated through social media…"[The posts] were intended to degrade the leadership of the South African Police Service and/or disrespect the authority of the national commissioner," it reads.
The posts were alleged to have been published on 16 February.
Vearey could not be reached for comment.
Do you have a tipoff for our investigations unit? Send an email to email@example.com