Pretoria – City Chief of police Steven Ngobeni was suspended for disobeying an order to remove rowdy ANC councillors from the State of the Capital Address (Soca) on Thursday, but later reinstated and urged to report for duty on Monday morning.
Ngobeni conceded to the Pretoria News that his response to a call to remove councillors from the House landed him in hot water, leading to him being suspended.
He was also allegedly seen consulting with his former boss, erstwhile MMC for Community Safety Terrence Mashego, now an ANC caucus member.
However, the suspension lasted for just for a day.
On Friday, the head of the Tshwane Metro Police Department did not report for duty in accordance with a message from city manager Moeketsi Mosola that he had been suspended.
Insiders said his office locks were changed following the suspension.
Ngobeni said Mosola issued him with “a verbal statement” on his suspension at the Tshwane Events Centre, where the Soca was held.
He left the venue immediately after receiving the news of his suspension. His deputy Jenny Malan took over the metro police operations for the day.
Malan took instructions from Mosola and Msimanga about how to handle the unruly ANC councillors, who refused to leave the council despite speaker Katlego Mathebe ordering them to do so.
Ngobeni said: “On Friday the city manager e-mailed me a letter stating that my powers as chief of police were revoked only for Thursday at the Soca.”
He said he had not reported for duty on Friday because of his suspension.
Ngobeni said he would be back at work on Monday after Mosola clarified the condition of his suspension.
But when asked at the weekend to confirm if Ngobeni had been suspended or was facing suspension, Mosola said “I am not aware of that.”
But in a letter the Pretoria News has seen, and signed by Mosola, Ngobeni was told his powers had been revoked. The letter read in part: “I hereby advise that the sub-delegated powers and functions are hereby withdrawn effective April 6, 2017, more specifically in so far as it relates to functions and duties as required for the State of City Address.”
Ngobeni said he was suspended after he had referred the mayor and Mosola to the court judgment obtained by the DA against Parliament Speaker Baleka Mbete in 2015 following the forceful removal of EFF members by the police.
The DA obtained the ruling against Baleka after police removed EFF members, who disrupted President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.
The ruling effectively prohibited the SAPS to enter the House when there was no immediate danger to councillors or city property, he said.
The Pretoria News has also seen two directives from acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane on what the police should not do at all legislatures – national, provincial and local.
The Speaker was given a national directive written to the National Assembly, and all provincial legislatures and provincial SAPS commissioners, in which the acting national commissioner made it clear that the police should never be used to remove public representatives from legislatures.
Ngobeni was notified by the SAPS about the implications of the court ruling on the metropolitan police’s role at municipal council chambers.
He said: “We can only move into the chamber if property is under threat of being damaged or if councillors are fighting each other.”
Last October, the metro police wrote an advisory report to Mathebe after ANC councillors disrupted the council sitting on September 27.
In the report, Mathebe was advised to form a council protection services (CPS) unit within her office to deal with unruly councillors or public members.
“The role of the CPS shall be to protect proceedings at council meetings, including carrying out the removal of disruptive councillors or members from the chamber,” the report read.
Alternatively, Mathebe was advised to outsource the protection services, deemed to be a financially and operationally viable option.
The report said the metro police shall not hesitate to enter the council chamber but only when there is immediate danger to property or councillors.
The report further read: “The role of the metro police could be when there is an immediate danger to the life or safety of any person or damage to any property."
“Members of the security services may without obtaining such permission enter and take action in the precincts in so far as it is necessary to avert such danger.”
The Pretoria News understands that Msimanga interpreted Ngobeni’s behaviour as an act of defiance and wanted him to face the music for not acting on the instruction to remove ANC councillors from the chamber.
He has reportedly expressed the intention to take up the matter in the council to decide on Ngobeni’s fate as the city’s police boss.
Tension between Ngobeni and Msimanga has been brewing since the mayor publicly announced during the 2016 municipal election campaign that he would fire the police chief and replace him with a career policeman if elected mayor of the capital.
Msimanga maintained his stance to sack Ngobeni even after he was elected city mayor.
The only snag for Msimanga not to execute his intention was after he learnt that Ngobeni’s contract with the city was permanent.
Two months ago, Ngobeni was on the verge of resigning citing stress, but withdrew his resignation letter after consulting with his family.