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Cape Town - The senior officer at the centre of a dirty battle in the SAPS pitting national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega against her own spooks, contradicted on Friday a key plank of her defence against allegations that she tried to sabotage a bribery investigation against him.
The provincial commissioner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the Saturday Star he had no knowledge of the matter.
This calls into question Phiyega’s claim that, instead of her having tipped off the officer about the investigation as alleged, he had phoned her after details of it landed on his desk in the course of a police response to a parliamentary question about the matter.
Phiyega is alleged to have alerted the senior officer who was being investigated by crime intelligence for taking money from a drug lord in return for helping him to evade justice.
A furious Phiyega hit back on Friday after the case was opened at the Bishop Lavis police station in Cape Town, saying it was “a lame attempt by certain individuals within crime intelligence to discredit” her and derail her efforts to flush out officers “who have no integrity and have no interest in taking the SAPS forward”.
She insinuated that the smear campaign could be connected to her decision to suspend and launch an investigation into acting crime intelligence boss General Chris Ngcobo.
She said on Friday that in the process of the police gathering information to prepare a response on behalf of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to a parliamentary question from the DA, the DA enquiry had ended up in the provincial commissioner’s office “after passing through various officials”.
“It was at that point that the provincial commissioner called the national commissioner to enquire about the investigation,” said her spokesman, Solomon Makgale.
“It therefore cannot be argued that she alerted the provincial commissioner about the investigation,” he said.
But the provincial commissioner in question said: “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know about this parliamentary question.” He referred all queries back to Phiyega.
Oscar Skommere, general secretary of Sapu (SA Police Union), has called for a commission of inquiry into police management.
“The SAPS is in tatters,” he said.
“There is no longer command and control. For anybody to be able to address all these problems we are facing we need a commission to to get to the root cause.”
This week the union failed in its attempt to interdict the SAPS on an urgent basis from restructuring top management, but Skommere vowed the battle was not over.
Phiyega introduced changes to her senior staff last month which Sapu is insisting amount to restructuring of the police service.
Policing expert Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies said only a top-level, independent investigation could clear up the allegations against Phiyega.
Should they prove to be true, she would have to be removed.
He called for a commission of inquiry into the police senior management, focusing on the manner of their appointment, in light of the revelations about Ngcobo and Zuma. “We cannot carry on like this, it’s becoming an absolute circus,” Burger said.
He said Phiyega could not be trusted to clean up the crime intelligence division until she had been cleared of the charges.
“She’s made so many blunders – we all remember quite clearly how miserably she fared at the Marikana Commission of Inquiry – so she’s unfortunately always going to find it difficult,” he said.
“I’m not saying these allegations are true, but they are at least extremely serious.”
Phiyega’s restructuring of the police top-management had sown discontent in the ranks.
“She’s unfortunately so compromised now and she’s made so many mistakes over the last number of months in terms of people she’s appointed, and she’s sidelined some of the more experienced people,” Burger said.