The South African Police Union insists internal scrutiny prior to the promotion of Mondli Zuma would have brought his criminal cases to light.
It is "highly unlikely" that police commissioner Riah Phiyega was unaware of Major General Mondli Zuma's pending criminal matter when deciding to appoint him as provincial commissioner last Saturday, said the president of the police union this week.
South African Police Union president Mpho Kwinika said the system of checks and balances in the South African Police Service (SAPS) would have shown that Zuma had a pending disciplinary matter, which should have disqualified him for the promotion.
Phiyega announced Zuma as Gauteng police commissioner on August 31, only to reverse the decision a few hours later after it emerged that he had pending cases of driving under the influence and defeating the ends of justice.
The cases relate to a 2008 incident in Pietermaritzburg in which Zuma allegedly fled a roadblock after a breathalyser test, and locked himself in a house for two hours.
Kwinika told the Mail & Guardian that promotion could not be made unless an officer's personal file had been checked for disciplinary findings. A negative finding was known as a "stroke five". He said senior provincial management met every day to analyse the crime information.
"When Zuma was arrested and charged, there should have been a management meeting to report to [then] Gauteng provincial commissioner [Mzwandile] Petros, who would, at some point during deliberations for a successor, have informed Phiyega. Either Petros kept it under wraps or Phiyega ignored it."
Two senior police sources, however, told the M&G that Zuma had, indeed, previously disclosed the pending matter, but the file may not have reached Phiyega.
When approached for comment, Zuma said: "If I was allowed to speak, I would tell you the truth, but in terms of procedures, where there are police spokespersons, I will have to refer you to [Phiyega's spokesperson] Solly Makgale."
This week, through her spokesperson, Phiyega said that Zuma had only been "provisionally appointed" as more background checks were still being carried out at the time the announcement was made.
According to the police's national instructions on promotions, successful candidates are provisionally appointed, then subjected to a security clearance.
The appointment letter can be issued only once the "suitability certificates from the relevant provincial and divisional [officials] together with certificates of acceptance are received and confirmed at head office".
In June this year, 12 police lieutenants at the OR Tambo International Airport-based border police filed a successful Labour Court interdict to prevent being transferred from their posts. The 12 had clashed with Zuma while he was serving as station commander at OR Tambo, a position he held from 2005 to 2010.
They submitted as part of their court papers a memorandum alleging Zuma's complicity in a number of issues, particularly a robbery in 2008 from a police store at the airport, in which R3-million in cash, drugs and firearms went missing.
Diverse policing experience
The 12 claim in a memorandum from 2010 that black staff members were marginalised, that a number of their colleagues had been told to spy on them and information relating to the robbery had been concealed.
Zuma then tried to have the 12 transferred, to "afford them an opportunity to accumulate diverse policing experience".
Despite being sent detailed questions, Makgale said he had adequately addressed the matter of Zuma's withdrawn promotion.
"There is nothing new to add. How you move from an ongoing Labour Court issue relating to SAPS transfer policy, riddled with untested and usual union rhetoric, to concluding that the major general is known to be a person of questionable character baffles the mind," he said in response to the M&G's questions.
Phiyega was appointed a month before the Marikana massacre on August 16 2012, in which 34 people died when police fired on striking Lonmin mine workers.
Days after the massacre, she congratulated the police on a job well done.
During her testimony at the Marikana commission of inquiry, she amended a sworn statement to say that she had told Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa that she would attend to the Marikana massacre. Her earlier statement had said that she was told by Mthethwa to attend to the massacre.
She then went on to say that she could not say for sure whether it had been police who had shot and killed the mineworkers on the day, before issuing an apology to the families.
Phiyega has also come under fire for not remedying the current bloated structure of the police and for not speeding up its demilitarisation process, as per the recommendations of the National Planning Commission.