Judgment reserved in WCape top cops' labour dispute

Western Cape policeman  Major-General Jeremy Vearey sits with Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union provincial secretary Mncedisi Mbolekwa at the Labout Court.  (Jenni Evans, News24)
Western Cape policeman Major-General Jeremy Vearey sits with Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union provincial secretary Mncedisi Mbolekwa at the Labout Court. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Cape Town - While an apparent nightclub security turf war is playing out in Cape Town, two of the province's top cops are embroiled in a dispute in the Labour Court over their jobs.

In the court in Loop Street, not far from a shooting at a nightclub on Thursday night, were major-generals Jeremy Vearey and Peter Jacobs.

Both cut their teeth in anti-apartheid activism and African National Congress intelligence structures before eventually donning the blue and gold of the post-1994 SA Police Service (SAPS).

The two rose through the ranks and, by June 2016, Vearey was the deputy provincial commissioner for detective services. Jacobs headed the Western Cape's Crime Intelligence Unit.

They are credited with being part of a team that put Vereeniging policeman Chris Prinsloo behind bars for 18 years in June 2016 for being part of the sale of confiscated firearms.

READ: Another person shot at Cape Town nightclub as 'underworld turf war' continues

Strange decision

The guns were meant for destruction, but instead found their way into the hands of gangsters and were used in crimes, including the murders of children caught in the crossfire of gang shootings.

So when Vearey and Jacobs were told on June 13, 2016 that they were no longer needed where they were, it came as a surprise.

Vearey was told to go back to his old job as head of the Cape Town cluster of police stations, and Jacobs was sent to head the Wynberg cluster of police stations.

Michael Donen, representing Vearey, Jacobs, and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), said it was a strange decision, given that those clusters focused mostly on property crime, and not gang-related crime.

Both considered this a demotion, and the stripping of expertise from the anti-gang and anti-corruption units in the province.

They felt it was irrational and unlawful and, with Popcru's help, applied to the Labour Court for a review of the decision.

Donen submitted that Major-General Mzwandile Tiyo replaced Jacobs in 2016.

At the time Tiyo did not even have the security clearance required for access to the sensitive information he would need to do his job properly.

Acting position

Major-General Patrick Mbotho replaced Vearey.

On Tuesday, a police delegation including Mbotho and new Police Minister Fikile Mbalula visited the Nyanga Junction, where private security guards had thwarted an attempted heist of millions of rand in pension money from a Shoprite outlet.

Mbotho was introduced as the acting provincial commissioner. An SAPS spokesperson, however, told News24 he was the deputy provincial commissioner for crime detection services and that provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula was on leave.

Donen said police could not produce a record of the discussions by acting national police commissioner Lt-Gen Khomotso Phahlane and Jula about Jacobs and Vearey's reassignment. This supported their contention that the decision was irrational.

But on Friday, SAPS' counsel Alec Freund said Vearey's move was not a transfer at all, because he had only been acting in the position. He was merely sent back to his old job at the Cape Town cluster as part of the restructuring.

The Cape Town Cluster position was his real job, he said.

Vearey had no rights to the detective services job just because he had been acting in it, continued Freund.

He said Vearey had actually applied for the position, but did not get the job, making his Labour Court application frivolous and vexatious.

As for Jacobs, he said there had already been complaints about the "unusable" intelligence he was providing so they found "something better" for him.

Judge Hilary Rabkin-Naicker would have to decide which laws should be applied when deciding if they should be allowed a review - the Labour Relations Act or the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, or both.

Rabkin-Naicker reserved judgment.

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