Minister of Police Bheki Cele Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Durban - Police Minister Bheki Cele plans to challenge the public protector’s report that suggested he had been grossly negligent, had lapsed in his judgement and should be reprimanded by President Cyril Ramaphosa for not ensuring that two whistle- blowers in the Sandiso Magaqa murder case received protection from the state.

Cele’s spokesperson René Serero confirmed that they had seen Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report, which has yet to be released to the public.

She said Cele had “serious reservations” about the findings and the remedial actions proposed by Mkhwebane.

The report deduced that the two whistle-blowers had been exposed to possible threats to their lives because of negligence by the SAPS.

Thabiso Zulu, an ANC member, anti-corruption activist and friend of Magaqa, and Les Stuta, an official at Harry Gwala Municipality, were responsible for lifting the lid on the possible reasons behind the murder of Magaqa, a former ANC Youth League secretary-general and PR councillor at uMzimkhulu Municipality at the time of his death.

Magaqa was shot, with colleagues Nontsikelelo Mafa and Jabu Msiya, in the uMzimkhulu area in July 2017, but died in September 2017 due to “complications from multiple gunshot wounds”.

Mafa and Msiya both survived.

At Magaqa’s funeral, Zulu and Stuta exposed corruption in Umzimkhulu Municipality.

Speaking to Independent Media earlier this year, Zulu said he had named, shamed and offended many people, including crime intelligence officers, by revealing things that had been discussed in private with him.

He also testified about the matter before the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into political killings.

Zulu said it had been Magaqa who provided him with information regarding the missing millions of rand around the building of Umzimkhulu Hall, which is under investigation by the public protector.

He has since reported the threats and pleaded with law enforcement for protection.

In the report, Mkhwebane said the failure by Cele and the SAPS to provide security protection for Stuta and Zulu exposed them to the risk of being murdered.

“It also exposes the SAPS and the government to a risk of unnecessary legal claims and financial losses as their families could decide to claim against the government for damages for the loss of lives should they be assassinated.”

Mkhwebane wrote to the former minister of police, Fikile Mbalula, and then-State Security Agency (SSA) minister Bongani Bongo, in mid-November 2017, asking them to conduct threat assessments on the whistle-blowers. Both ministers responded within a week, saying the assessments would be undertaken.

The SAPS eventually assessed Zulu and Stuta in mid-December but, according to her report, Mkhwebane had not received the assessment.

Protection

The SSA assessment, which found they needed protection, only took place in April 2018.

“The minister of police and the SAPS’s conduct in dealing with my request to provide protection to the two whistle-blowers can only be described as grossly negligent and a slap in the face to the very people that members of SAPS are employed to protect.”

The conduct of the minister and the police constituted improper conduct “and undue delay, gross negligence and maladministration”, said the report.

Appropriate remedial action, according to Mkhwebane, would entail Ramaphosa reprimanding Cele “for his lapses in judgement” regarding SAPS failure to provide protection “after a determination was made that they needed it”.

Serero said Cele had instructed SAPS management to look at a judicial review of the report “because of its dire consequences for the Ministry of ­Police and South African Police Services if left unchallenged”

“In the meantime, we will not be able to implement the proposed remedial actions required of the minister of police and SAPS until this matter is legally concluded,” Serero said.

The Mercury