- One month after a judge ordered that documents linked to a string of police contracts, probed by IPID, be declassified, the information remains secret.
- Police commissioner General Khehla Sitole was ordered to take "immediate steps" to facilitate this but has now blamed IPID for the delay.
- The top cop fought the declassification in court for three years, costing the taxpayer R1.5 million.
A trove of classified documents – the paper trail behind a slew of dubious police contracts, including those centred on allegations of a state-funded "plot" to swing the outcome of the ANC's Nasrec elective conference – remain a closely guarded secret.
This nearly a month after the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that police commissioner General Khehla Sitole must take "immediate steps" to strip away their secret status – and hand them over to police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
In a tersely worded letter sent to Sitole on Friday, Police Minister Bheki Cele wanted to know how the damming ruling impacted the police, how Sitole and his deputies "were involved" in a string of dubious deals now under investigation, and what cost was borne by the taxpayer after their three-year legal quest to keep the details secret.
Now Sitole has responded and explained that the I-View documents and information had not yet been declassified and proceeded to blame IPID and the Inspector-General of Intelligence [IGI].
For nearly three years, IPID investigators have been refused access to records surrounding a string of shadowy deals between the Crime Intelligence Division and a company called I-View, on the strength that this information has been categorised as secret.
Sitole and his deputies – Lieutenant-Generals Francinah Vuma and Leonard Tsumane – were steadfast that national security would be compromised should the information be made public.
But IPID claimed this was merely a veil with which to obfuscate multi-pronged corruption probes and hide malfeasance in the uppermost echelons of the police.
Last month, Judge Norman Davis found there was no cogent basis that information sought by IPID be held out of reach like Tantalus' fruit.
"There is no lawful or justifiable reason why access to the relevant documents should not be given to IPID and, if declassification is necessary to effect such a process, it should be done," Davis said.
After the withering judgment, which has also drawn the probity of police top brass into sharp focus, Cele demanded answers.
In response, Sitole said: "It was decided to implement the order with regard to declassification of the information and documents… correspondence in this regard has been sent to IPID and the Inspector-General of Intelligence that the correct list is being attended to," he wrote.
"No reply has been received to date and a follow up will be made, as documents were previously taken by IPID and the IGI from Crime Intelligence," he mused.
Sitole also indicated that he had launched an appeal of a declaratory order made by Davis, that he, Vuma and Tsumane had "breached their duties" by failing to cooperate with IPID's investigation.
"One would have expected SAPS management, upon hearing of allegations of a three-fold overpricing of basic equipment such as flak jackets, to immediately raise hue and cry, and volunteer any assistance to the investigation of such flagrant corruption within its ranks. The failure… constitutes a breach," Davis said in his January ruling.
Sitole, in his letter to Cele, said leave to appeal this aspect of the judgment had already been filed, in an apparent bid to salvage his credibility and that of his management team.
The top cop also revealed that their ultimately doomed court challenge against IPID – a bid to ensure secrets stayed that way – had cost the taxpayer more than R1.5 million.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, when asked for comment, told News24: "As indicated in my previous response to yourself, any communication or correspondence between the offices of the National Commissioner and the Minister shall remain between them and not be discussed in the public domain. That being said, it is rather unfortunate that any document between the two mentioned offices would be leaked to the media and what the intention thereof would be."
Do you have a tip-off for our investigations unit? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.