Francois Beukman's sudden resignation sparks speculation

Francois Beukman, former head of the police watchdog body, was either jumped or pushed, but refuses to comment. (David Harrison, M&G)

Francois Beukman, former head of the police watchdog body, was either jumped or pushed, but refuses to comment. (David Harrison, M&G)

The former executive director of the police watchdog, the independent police investigative directorate, Francois Beukman – whose resignation was announced to the media on the afternoon of the Marikana massacre – was investigated for alleged irregularities in the appointment of the director for executive support in his office, the Mail & Guardian has established.

There has been some speculation that he could have been encouraged to resign because he would not allow a cover-up.

The announcement of his resignation came on the day of the Marikana massacre and came as a shock to his staff.

Beukman apparently handed in the curriculum vitae of Ilse Pretorius after the closing date for applications for the executive support post and it is claimed he was involved in ­making the appointment.

Yet questions have now been raised about whether this incident was used to push Beukman out of the job. Outside the rigid short-listing processes in the public service, it is common practice in recruitment processes in South Africa that an exceptional curriculum vitae is occasionally accepted after the closing date for applications.

It is understood that Beukman had not always seen eye to eye with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and this might have pressured him to resign. In announcing his departure, the directorate claimed that Beukman had tendered his resignation "to pursue other interests".
Its spokesperson, Moses Dlamini, said  the body had no further comment to make on Beukman's departure.

He was not available for comment. The M&G tried to visit Beukman at his home in the Strand Seaside Village in the Western Cape, but was turned away by security guards on his orders.

Controversy
Beukman took up the top job in August 2009 and his contract was due to end in August 2014.

Although the controversy around Beukman's resignation has been kept under wraps, the M&G found that an investigation by the Public Service Commission into Pretorius's appointment allegedly found that Beukman had not followed due processes. The M&G was informed by reliable sources that this had led to his unexpected resignation.

Pretorius, who is still employed at the directorate, said she did not want to comment.

The Public Service Commission confirmed it had received complaints relating to alleged irregularities at the directorate, including an allegation of irregularities around Pretorius's appointment.

"Following receipt of the complaint and in order to enable the Public Service Commission to assess the merits of the allegations, the matter was forwarded to the minister of police for comment.

"The minister appoints task teams to look into the matter," said Humphrey Ramafoko, head of communications at the commission. "Subsequent to the outcome of the investigations conducted by the task teams, the Public Service Commission was informed that Mr Beukman was no longer in the employ of the independent police investigative directorate."

The Public Service Commission sidestepped the question of whether Beukman was pushed or had been asked to resign.

The M&G has also learnt that Beukman had done some restructuring at the organisation that had upset some staff. Although nobody doubted his capabilities and his desire for independence to allow the directorate to carry out its tasks, there had allegedly been some complaints from staff against him.

Irregularities
The M&G asked Mthethwa's spokesperson, Zweli Mnisi, whether it was true that the minister did not get along with Beukman and for confirmation of the investigations into the alleged irregularities in the hiring of Pretorius.

"On your question around the former head of the directorate, Mr Francois Beukman, well, he submitted his resignation, which the minister accepted. So there is nothing really to substantiate on," said Mnisi. "He has moved on and we accepted his resignation unconditionally."

Although there might be concerns outside the directorate that the Marikana investigation could be compromised because Beukman is no longer in his job, the M&G was informed that all evidence, pathology and forensics, was well secured.

"There are too many people involved in this investigation who want to see justice done," said a source close to the case. "Nothing will be compromised."

The next step is for the watchdog body to appoint a new permanent head.

The recently appointed chief director of its legal services, Koekie Mbeki, is serving as acting head.

Last week she declined to be interviewed, saying hers was merely a temporary job.

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill

Glynnis Underhill has been in journalism for more years than she cares to remember. She loves a good story as much now as she did when she first started. The only difference is today she hopes she is giving something back to the country. Read more from Glynnis Underhill

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