National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

The next top cop to fall from grace?

By SOLLY MAPHUMULO Time of article published Apr 26, 2015

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Johannesburg - Beleaguered National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega could be hauled before a disciplinary committee (DC), a move that could signal the beginning of an end to her tenure as South Africa’s top cop.

A special committee set up last year by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to investigate a number of allegations against Phiyega has recommended that she face the DC.Various independent sources close to the investigation have told The Sunday Independent that the committee – called the Reference Group – has completed its six month investigation and has already handed its report to Nhleko.

Nhleko’s Reference Group is believed to have arrived at similar findings to those made by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), which previously recommended that Phiyega face an internal disciplinary hearing – and not criminal charges – for her alleged interference in the criminal investigation that led to last week’s arrest of Western Cape Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer on fraud, racketeering and corruption charges.

Phiyega’s been accused of irregular conduct for allegedly giving a tip-off to Lamoer about the Hawks and Crime Intelligence probe into his suspected criminal activities. Nhleko established the Reference Group in October last year.

The group's terms of reference were to, among other things, investigate all the appointments, suspensions, disciplinary and criminal proceedings involving senior police management. It also included in its investigations allegations that Phiyega alerted Lamoer about the investigation against him.

The Sunday Independent understands that the Farlam Commission, which investigated, among other matters, the role of the police in the Marikana tragedy, which left 34 mineworkers dead during a protest at Lonmin mine in August in 2012, is also critical of Phiyega.

A senior NPA official, who did not want to be identified, said there is “prima facie evidence” of misconduct against Phiyega.

However, the evidence in the state's possession is likely to be ruled inadmissible in court.

“There is evidence that she did call Lamoer and told him about an investigation against him, but in court it's different. The prosecution has to prove beyond reasonable doubt that an offence has been committed – unlike a disciplinary hearing, where you can prove on balance of probabilities.”

The official added that it was for that reason that they recommended that Nhleko pursue an internal disciplinary hearing. “We are not sure why the Minister has not acted. The report makes it very clear that the matter should be dealt with internally.” The Sunday Independent understands that Phiyega has not approached the NPA to review its decision that a disciplinary action should be pursued against her.

“Phiyega can approach the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and make representations if she’s dissatisfied with the decision. The NDPP could either overturn the decision or confirm it.”

The arrest of Lamoer along with three police Brigadiers Darius Joe Van Der Ross, Sharon and Kolindren Govender and businessman Saleem Dawjee has prompted fresh calls for Phiyega’s suspension by the SA Policing Union (Sapu).

Sapu Secretary General Oscar Skommere said: “The tapes are there and the NPA is declining to prosecute her. This is political. I don't know why they are going around in circles, Phiyega must be dismissed.” He added that Sapu was not happy that Lamoer and his co-accused have been suspended with full pay: “Other officers are suspended without pay. Why is Lamoer getting special treatment?”

The state alleges that Dawjee showered Lamoer and his co-accused with expensive gifts and rented cars for their families, in return for specialised police protection. Lamoer and other senior police officers received bribes (from Dawjee) amounting to more than R1 635 822 from as far back as 2011, according to the indictment.

Nhleko’s spokesman, Musa Zondi, has declined to comment. Phiyega’s spokesman Solomon Makgale had not responded at the time of going to press.

The Sunday Independent

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