Cops put lid on nepotism
The SAPS resorted to a discredited and – in the opinion of the current government – an “unconstitutional” piece of legislation in what appears a desperate bid to muzzle The Sunday Independent.
The police were granted an order interdicting this newspaper from publishing details of malfeasance and violation of laws by the SAPS Crime Intelligence – without argument – at the North Gauteng High Court on Friday night.
The Sunday Independent has taken a decision to challenge this order every step of the way.
The interdict application was brought by lawyers for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, National Commissioner Bheki Cele and Head of Crime Intelligence Richard Mdluli, late on Friday night and was summarily granted which did not wait for the newspaper’s lawyers before starting proceedings.
The order prevents Independent Newspapers and in particular Sunday Independent journalist Gcwalisile Khanyile from publishing any information about the police’s Crime Intelligence Unit. The Sunday Independent had planned to do a series of exposes on appointments within the Crime Intelligence Unit based on reliable information she had received from various sources.
What we are not able to tell you this weekend, dear reader, is that nnnnnnn were employed in an irregular process that nnnnnnn because nnnnnnn manipulated it.
The gagging order prohibits this newspaper from publishing any details on advertisements and appointments made in the unit.
The newspaper has been ordered to hand documents to police and is interdicted against writing further articles about the division – particularly covert appointments processes and whether or not they had been manipulated. But the order does not stop us from finding out what the police are doing to root out nepotism within their ranks.
National Police spokesman Colonel Lindela Mashigo said the order was necessary to protect the safety of operatives.
“In the environment that we are talking about (crime intelligence), it is not necessary to be in public.”
Mashigo was initially vague in his explanation. He said police would take “internal measures” and when pressed for clarity said allegations against Mdluli would be given “the necessary attention”.
When asked why he was being vague, Mashigo said: “Yes, we will remain vague until a decision is taken. At this point it remains an internal matter.”
Mashigo asked for further questions to be sent by email, for fear of being misquoted. The Sunday Independent asked whether the police do not believe that the public has a right to know when nepotism or corruption takes place in units meant protect them. Mashigo responded: “SAPS is not pro-corruption.”
He added that police would “act against irregular conduct, beyond this we are not ready to comment”.
According to the Parliamentary Monitoring Group, Advocate Premjith Supersad of the State Security Agency told the ad hoc committee on the Protection of Information Bill in May that parts of the Protection of Information Act (84) of 1982 were “outdated and unconstitutional” and “unenforceable”.
The police have defended the decision to interdict The Sunday Independent using this act, saying “the police are obliged to enforce the laws of our country for as long as they are valid”.
The Sunday Independent editor Makhudu Sefara said resorting to this legislation showed the level of desperation to keep a lid on the rot.
“If they said our claims were false and baseless perhaps they would have a point. But what they are saying is that even when we report the truth about the rot, they will use discredited legislation against us to keep their wrongs from the glare of the public. It is wrong, it is shameless and we will pursue this matter to its logical conclusion,” said Sefara.
He added that the order granted by Judge Ephraim Makgoba was too broad and too limiting.
“What the police effectively, though temporarily, did was to keep us at bay with the hope that nobody reports on the spectre of nepotism sweeping the police force. This will not last.”
Sefara said he would meet with lawyers early next week to discuss where and when to launch an appeal against the order.
Media bodies have questioned the granting of the order.
In a statement released yesterday, South African National Editors Forum said it was “disconcerting” that there “appears to have been an element of miscommunication between the lawyers representing the parties which resulted in the paper’s lawyers having to travel to Pretoria after the police lawyers had arrived at court. The paper’s lawyers arrived five minutes after the judge had made his ruling.”
National Press Council chair Yusuf Abramjee, who was at court on Friday evening, said the decision raised questions about the justice system. “We believe the story is of public interest. It’s about a very important department.”
Abramjee added: “This application puts the police in a very bad light. Police leadership should have known better. We need to ask the question, ‘What do the police have to hide?’ “ - Sunday Independent