Khomotso Phahlane had filed a R500 000 lawsuit against Popcru, its secretary Steve Matsemela and three policemen who were whistle-blowers in the case against him, for tarnishing his name. File picture: Nokuthula Mbatha
Johannesburg - Former acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane says he feels vindicated after he was awarded R350 000 in damages over a corruption claim.

The Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, ruled on Friday the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (Popcru) compensate him for defamation over corruption claims the union made against him in 2012.

Phahlane had filed a R500 000 lawsuit against Popcru, its secretary Steve Matsemela and three policemen who were whistle-blowers in the case against him, for tarnishing his name.

“We always maintained there were attacks and assault on my integrity, unfairly so. These were ridiculous allegations which were far from the truth,” he said.

In a lengthy, detailed statement released to the media, the union had said the police forensic laboratory in Silverton, Pretoria, was a den of corruption headed by Phahlane.

The allegations included sabotage of service; concealing or doctoring of crime statistics; theft of drugs valued at R500 million, irregular appointments and failing to address sexual harassment.

Matsemela also claimed Phahlane had lied to a parliament portfolio about the size of the backlog at the laboratory. The union was also adamant a R46m DNA machine was “irregularly decommissioned” and the parts sold.

Popcru further alleged the three police officers were victimised and intimidated at their disciplinary hearings.

In his verdict, however, Judge Ramarumo Monama tore into the credibility of the three whistle-blowers. He said the allegations were nothing but defamatory to Phahlane and Popcru should publish a written retraction and apologise at a press conference before August 1.

“They avoided the relevant questions. They were select in providing the e-mails which implicated them. They did not impress me,” the judge said.

Phahlane said he was happy to finally have closure on the allegations. “I am grateful that the court in this matter found accordingly there was nothing.

“On integrity, I have continued to receive inside information on allegations against me, based on what happened in 2012, and finally we have a judgment and (it) favoured me.

“At least (there are) obligations to publish a retraction and an apology. They have to pay,” Phahlane said.

Popcru said they had appealed the ruling. Spokesperson Richard Mamabolo said it would not make any payments until the appeal was considered.

“We have appealed the court outcome. We believe that court will come to a different outcome,” Mamabolo said.

“We don’t agree with the first ruling. Our legal team worked hard to appeal the outcome. We thought we were going to win because we had our facts clear but our appealing can lead to a win.”

Meanwhile, Phahlane remains at home after Police Minister Fikile Mbalula served him with a notice of suspension from his position as forensic services divisional commissioner last month. Mbalula also announced Phahlane had been “relieved of his duties” as acting national commissioner.

Phahlane remains under investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) over allegations of corruption and money laundering, among others.

Phahlane said he had no intention of returning.

“I never prioritised to go back to my position again. I agreed to step aside. Right now, I am at home and enjoying my studies. The matter was handled by Ipid and I am waiting for their outcome,” he said.

Independent Media