Acting national police commissioner, Johannes Phahlane File picture: ANA
Parliament – Tensions were high in Parliament on Tuesday as acting national police commissioner, Khomotso Phahlane, went up against police watchdog head Robert McBride.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) head of investigations Matthew Sesoko, briefing MPs, said it would be in the interests of justice to suspend Phahlane or put him on leave while an investigation into his relationship with service providers is concluded.

Sesoko cited death threats issued via SMS to IPID head McBride and private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, the complainant in the probe against Phahlane.

He said one of the phones from which the threats were issued were linked to a police officer stationed at the OR Tambo International Airport.

“It is possible just as IPID members had received death threats, witnesses could also be intimidated or have their lives threatened in order not to comply with investigators,” he said.

Sesoko further claimed that Phahlane had assembled a team, led by Major-General Ntebo Mabulu, to directly counter the IPID probe. He added members of the team were being investigated by IPID for murder, torture and assault, among other alleged anomalies.

He suggested Phahlane and his team’s actions were “detrimental” to the independence of IPID.

“The action of General Phahlane and General Mabula’s team are in conflict with the intention of the legislature to keep IPID’s independence,” said Sesoko.

“This conduct is criminal and undermines Parliament.”

Phahlane hit back, denying any interference with IPID’s work, and defending his team against claims of torture, saying not one member of the team has been convicted or been disciplined in this regard.

The acting commissioner then went on to tell MPs that IPID was dysfunctional and its independence was non-existent.

“Without any fear of contradiction, IPID as an independent body doesn’t exist … is not functioning. Under the current circumstances it might be safe to call it OPID – O’Sullivan’s Police Investigative Directorate,” said Phahlane, suggesting there was a nefarious relationship between O’Sullivan and McBride.

“They [IPID] have been captured for far too long. We cannot allow IPID to be utilised to serve people’s personal agendas.”