Johannesburg - The scandal involving national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega deepened on Saturday when contents of embarrassing, taped conversations by South Africa’s top cop emerged.
Critically, it reveals that Phiyega told Western Cape provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer on three occasions that she was aware of investigations against him.
The conversations were legally recorded by crime intelligence operatives monitoring Lamoer’s calls after allegedly showing that he was associated with a Cape Town drug dealer and well known businessman.
Crime intelligence operatives picked up Phiyega’s conversations with Lamoer, during which she expresses regret at not telling him earlier that there were allegations linking him to the drug lord.
Phiyega makes Lamoer aware of similar allegations by Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and also discloses that the then head of crime intelligence disclosed the same information.
The disclosures have outraged crime intelligence operatives who have threatened to lay criminal charges against the national police commissioner.
Phiyega, meanwhile, says she won’t step down while charges against her are being investigated, because she’s “done nothing wrong”.
She told Eyewitness News that she had yet to be presented with the exact allegations against her.
“If I am being investigated let them bring the docket and I’ll be ready to answer those questions.”
She has labelled the charges against her as a smear campaign by the controversial crime intelligence unit. She has also said the latest saga was linked to her suspension of acting crime intelligence head, Major-General Chris Ngcobo.
In the taped conversations, heard by The Sunday Independent’s sister paper Sunday Tribune, it emerges that Lamoer made disparaging remarks about Phiyega.
He criticises her restructuring of the top police leadership structure, which has led to the isolation of some top, experienced police officers.
The restructuring also led to an embarrassing situation when Phiyega was forced to withdraw the appointment of Major-General Mondli Zuma as Gauteng police commissioner after the media revealed that Zuma was facing criminal charges.
The tapes reveal how Phiyega tells Lamoer that she received information about him from Dramat and then Ngcobo.
She says she didn’t commission the probe into Lamoer and nor did police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Phiyega also intimates that she might have attempted to protect Lamoer. She told him that she had told Dramat and Ngcobo to arrest the drug lord and “leave my management alone”.
According information from the Hawks and crime intelligence sources, Lamoer is allegedly associated with a Cape Town drug lord.
Police have been investigating Lamoer for the past four months.
He has allegedly been speaking to the suspected drug lord on almost a dailybasis.
He has allegedly received money from the suspect.
He also allegedly received free petrol from a filling station owned by the man.
Yesterday Lamoer rebuffed questions, insisting that police spokesman Solomon Makgale should deal with all queries.
Phiyega’s daughter, who wouldn’t identify herself, also referred questions to Makgale. Makgale, who promised to provide comments, failed to respond at the time of going to press.
IFP spokesman on police Velaphi Ndlovu said that an unhindered investigation into allegations against Phiyega was imperative.
“Riah Phiyega is the most powerful police officer in the country and should, by this virtue, allow a complete investigation into these allegations.
“If she has done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide, her name will be cleared and this is of utmost importance to the credibility of our country’s police service,” he said.
“No matter if you are the national commissioner or a constable, if you can influence an investigation against you, you should go on special leave while the matter is resolved. That is what should happen to Riah Phiyega,” he added.
DA shadow police minister Dianne Kohler-Barnard said: “Given the severity of these allegations it is essential that the police commissioner is fully investigated… I will write to the minister of police to ascertain exactly what steps are being taken against the police commissioner.
“Although commissioner Phiyega does not have a policing background, it is common sense that to telephone someone being investigated to inquire about the investigation is ludicrous. If she required information, or an update on the case, why did she not call the investigators? What reason was there for her to call the suspect? It is simply too big a mistake to make. If commissioner Phiyega is innocent, she should not oppose an investigation,” Kohler Barnard added.
Additional reporting by Jeff Wicks