Cape Town - In the aftermath of the shooting of five Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) officers this week, the head of the unit has called for the removal of senior police officials who reportedly sanctioned the ill-fated operation.
Disciplinary action is now being taken against the senior officers by a colonel from the Blue Downs Cluster Detectives.
Five officers were wounded and a sixth suffered a knee injury during a pre-dawn operation on Wednesday in Sweet Home Farm informal settlement, Philippi.
They were ambushed from a shack while searching for a murder suspect.
The attack came a day after Police Minister Bheki Cele met Samora Machel residents to discuss the high crime rate in the area.
Anti-Gang Unit head Major-General André Lincoln asked that a brigadier and two colonels who allegedly planned the operation without his knowledge be removed in an internal memo to the office of provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula.
“This request is necessitated by a break in the trust relationship between the commander of AGU and the said officers as decisions taken and implemented with regards to the shooting incident where six members were involved,” reads the letter.
The operation, the letter states, had been planned by two officers the day before it took place without a discussion with Lincoln. No approved operational plan or back-up from units such as the Tactical Response Team had been in place.
“None of the above-mentioned officers were present when this operation was executed. A sergeant was left in charge of the operation,” writes Lincoln.
None of the 10 officers who were part of the team were properly briefed and the dockets on the suspects they were meant to trace were not gang-related and therefore did not fall within the mandate of the AGU, he said.
Internal WhatsApp communications sent to a “general” on the morning of the shooting states that the AGU and Organised Crime Investigations were following up information on three murder cases in Samora Machel when they were shot.
The report said the police approached the suspect’s house and identified themselves.
“The person inside opened the door and shots were fired from inside, police took cover and retaliated and a chase ensued between the shacks while shooting was taking place.”
Four officers were transported to Melomed Mitchells Plain, while two, one of whom is in a critical state, were taken to Gatesville Melomed, said the report.
Five of the officers involved in the operation sustained gunshot woulds and one twisted his knee.
A 26-year-old man was arrested later that day at Paarl Hospital in connection with the shooting.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said the man remained under police guard in hospital and would appear in court once discharged.
Potelwa added two of the six injured officers had been discharged from hospital.
Lincoln’s letter has laid bare tensions within the provincial police, with Lincoln and head of detectives Major-General Jeremy Veary purportedly at odds with Jula.
In his letter, Lincoln states the three officers he wants removed were placed at the unit by Jula.
“As a result of the total breakdown in trust between the commander of AGU and the said officers the immediate removal of these officers is requested,” reads the letter.
Neither Lincoln nor the office of the provincial commissioner responded to queries on the matter. Veary also declined to comment.
“This is an internal matter and will be handled as such,” said acting national police spokesperson Colonel Brenda Muridili.