EXCLUSIVE: Standoff in Crime Intelligence - factionalism, racism and 'untouchables'

Peter Jacobs (Jan Gerber, News24)
Peter Jacobs (Jan Gerber, News24)

The head of the police's Crime Intelligence division, Lieutenant General Peter Jacobs, is facing a standoff within his unit, which is resulting in the freezing of operations as informer rewards are not being paid, rent payments for safe houses are being withheld and funds for operations are not being released.

A six-page grievance against Jacobs has been submitted to police management, authored by chief financial officer of Crime Intelligence, Brigadier Tiyani Hlungwani.

At the centre of the standoff is the criminal case involving Hlungwani, former Crime Intelligence head Major General Pat Mokushane and head of technical support, Brigadier Leonora Bamuza-Phetlhe.

In June this year, the three appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Pretoria on charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering. They were each released on bail of R5 000 and are due back in court next year.

It is alleged that Bamuza-Phetlhe was paid R50 000 from the secret service account for catering at a meeting which was approved by Mokushane. This was done after Hlungwani allegedly approached a colonel in the secret service to make payment into Bamuza-Phetlhe's personal bank account.

However, it's alleged that the actual payment made to a company for catering services was R5 000 and that the accused wanted the money for their own benefit.

Recently, while out on bail on the criminal charges, Phethle and Hlungwani were cleared in an internal disciplinary hearing. The officer that chaired the internal hearing criticised police management for their handling of the case against and it was suggested that they were charged because they blew the whistle on corruption related to the unit's slush fund.

ALSO READ: 'Untouchable' cop finally suspended

Phethle was acquitted of eight charges in a separate matter in November and was cleared by the Inspector General of Intelligence. However, she has another parallel disciplinary hearing.

Phethle returned to work but produced a sick note that booked her off work temporarily.

Withholding funds to sabotage Jacobs

According to several sources within Crime Intelligence management, Bamuza-Phethle and Hlungwani, supported by head of legal services Brigadier Dennis Chile, are behind the grievance against Jacobs.

As CFO, Hlungwani allegedly tightened his grip on the purse strings for Crime Intelligence and has withheld funds to pay informants, pay rent for safe houses and fund operations. The impact on crime fighting has been severe.

"It's been very negative. One faction is fighting another and trying to rally the troops to their side. It's been chaos and not much crime fighting is happening," says one insider.

"Jacobs has done well since he has come in. He wants to end the looting."

Brigadier Hlungwani confirmed that he submitted a grievance against Jacobs but would not comment further, saying he was not permitted to do so. Bamuza-Phethle said she was in not involved in the lodging of the grievance in any way.

Inside the grievance against Jacobs

Jacobs was appointed to head up Crime Intelligence in March this year, after a decade of scandal and instability there.

Under his authority, there have been a number of successes, including an intelligence-driven operation to arrest those responsible for the Verulam mosque attack. Cash-in-transit heists are down and the Anti-Gang Unit has been established.

News24 is in possession of the grievance. In it, Hlungwani complains about Jacobs' "autocratic management style", unfair discrimination, racism, perjury, defeating the ends of justice and maladministration.

"He does not allow or accommodate different views and opinions and he surrounds himself with individuals who just agree with him even if what he is saying is incorrect," complains Hlungwani.

"He has created a parallel Finance Structure within SSA (State Security Agency) finance by bringing Colonel Mayekiso without consulting me or telling me the role that Colonel Mayekiso has come to play in SSA finance. Colonel Mayekiso at times signs documents on my behalf while I am available. Colonel Mayekiso doesn't report to me and I do not know to whom he is reporting."

Hlungwani alleges that Jacobs, a former MK soldier with a well-documented record of fighting the apartheid government, is racist.

"Lieutenant General Jacobs doesn't like black people and he undermines them and unfairly discriminates against them. This is surprising for a person with struggle credentials, but I am of the view that he joined the struggle to emancipate only the oppressed minorities and not the oppressed majority indigenous people of this country… He vigorously pursues cases against black officials and turns a blind eye on cases where whites and Indians are involved."

Hlungwani goes on to list a number of examples. These include that Jacobs apparently told a black colonel to hand back his official vehicle but did not issue similar instructions to white, Indian and coloured colonels. In addition, he apparently instituted an investigation into the same colonel to prevent him from being appointed and allegedly "undermines and belittles the Inspector General of Intelligence because of the colour of his skin".

Jacobs is also accused of failing to take steps against senior managers and other employees who committed criminal offences, and of failing to report crimes in terms of the Corruption Act.

Hlungwani gave examples of how a major general and a lieutenant colonel used Secret Services account funds to book accommodation and submit fraudulent claims and used a safe house as their place of residence without authority at exorbitant rentals. Another colonel was apparently paid an amount of R160 000 for rentals of his own house after colluding with other officials to rent his house to Crime Intelligence as a safe house without disclosing the conflict of interest. He complained that the incidents were never reported for investigation.

In the grievance, Hlungwani suggests that a disciplinary investigation must be instituted against Jacobs and he must be charged for unfair discrimination and victimisation of black employees within the division. He also wants Jacobs to be held personally liable and investigated for maladministration.

Hlungwani suggests there needs to be an investigation into Jacobs' fitness to hold the critical position of national head of Crime Intelligence and says a criminal probe must be instituted.

Hlungwani also wants five months' compensation for the violation of his basic human rights.

Grievance shows members have avenues for "recourse"

The police have not officially confirmed that a grievance was lodged against Jacobs, but spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said "the mere fact that a member is able to lodge a grievance against the head of a division, is a confirmation that members have avenues for recourse".

He did not respond to detailed questions. Jacobs also did not respond to requests for comment.

"Given the sensitive nature of the work done by the environment your query is based on, I am not going to respond in detail to these matters as they are operational in nature. However, I think you are aware that the Crime Intelligence environment has been without a permanent head for up to seven years and it was an environment that was marred by one controversy after another during that period. Since the appointment of Lieutenant General Jacobs as the head of Crime Intelligence a few months ago, a turnaround strategy was adopted. We can confidently say that the Crime Intelligence environment is now operating with greater effect now than during the tumultuous period I have alluded to earlier," said Naidoo.

One senior unit member described the situation as a "standoff", saying "Hlungwani was daring Jacobs to take steps against him". Another described the grievance as "all bullshit".

Bamuza-Phetlhe "untouchable"

Bamuza-Phetlhe has a history of run-ins with her bosses at Crime Intelligence and with the law in general.

She was accused of fabricating the security clearance for the former acting head of Crime Intelligence, who was removed from the post in August last year. There were also questions about how R50 000 from the State Security Agency landed up in her bank account.

Last year, National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole faced a grilling about her when he appeared before Parliament's portfolio committee.

MPs described Bamuza-Phetlhe as being "too powerful".

"She even controls her seniors. She does as she wishes. She's untouchable in fact. Why is she feared like that?" asked ANC MP Angelina Molebatsi. At the time, the national commissioner gave parliamentarians an undertaking that Bamuza-Phetlhe was being suspended and dealt with.

But in a telephonic interview with News24, Brigadier Bamuza-Phetlhe insisted she was not untouchable and was not part of any kind of cabal attempting to oust Jacobs. She said she and Hlungwani were not part of a faction.

"We speak the same language as each other and there are always people who you sit with when you eat lunch and people assume you are part of the same faction. We support one another but we just want to do our work," insisted Phethle.

"No, not myself. I'm not in there. Even when we are sitting together, we are discussing work."

She also doesn't understand why she has been labelled untouchable and says she just wants to do her work, which is to fight crime.

"I am not untouchable but always stick to the truth. But I don't mind being called that because that and all other name callings do not reduce me to nothing. I encourage General Jacobs to do his work with integrity and fairness and not listen to gossipers trying to derail him. I don't know where that's coming from. I don't have time to entertain such things and I don't care what they are calling me. As painful as it is for them to drag my name, I don't care. Crime is so high because they are just wasting time in Parliament talking about Phethle when they should be fighting crime. The truth will always prevail."

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