/ 31 October 2013

Phiyega hits back at crime intelligence

Riah Phiyega is being investigated for allegedly talking to Western Cape police boss Arno Lamoer
Riah Phiyega is being investigated for allegedly talking to Western Cape police boss Arno Lamoer (left) about a probe into whether he accepted a bribe from a 'gangster.' (Sunday Times)

National police commissioner Riah Phiyega highlighted the extent of the dysfunctionality in the South African Police Service (SAPS) when she came out, guns blazing, against the crime intelligence division in a memo sent to her staff this week.

In the memo, Phiyega wrote: "Although I do not expect my ­colleagues to behave in such an underhanded manner, whereby they concoct a story and then open a case against me, it however comes as no surprise given some of the mischievous activities conducted by crime intelligence in the past.

"It is clear to me that this is a lame attempt by certain individuals within crime intelligence to discredit me and derail the process of flushing out those within the SAPS who have no integrity and have no interest in taking the SAPS forward."

Phiyega remarked that "it is interesting that this matter surfaces through some faceless people, shortly after my decision to put the former acting divisional commissioner [Major General Chris Ngcobo of crime intelligence] on special leave to allow for criminal and disciplinary investigations to be conducted" [after alleged discrepancies were discovdered in Ngcobo's academic qualifications].

Crime intelligence is alleged to have laid charges of defeating the ends of justice against Phiyega at the Bishop Lavis police station, which is next door to the Western Cape crime intelligence offices.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has confirmed it is probing whether Phiyega tipped off Western Cape provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer about an investigation into his actions.

Unsubstantiated allegations
As yet unsubstantiated allegations have been made that Lamoer accepted a bribe from a "gangster" in the province. Lamoer has declined to comment.

Crime intelligence allegedly has copies of taped conversations in which Phiyega discusses the investigation with Lamoer. The IPID's acting executive director, Koekie Mbeki, has said the probe will be fast-tracked and is expected to be completed within three months.

Phiyega assured staff that she is not guilty of any crime.

She said that "with every day that goes by I see the South African Police Service taking steps forward.

"It is an uphill battle and the steps are tiny, but they are steps forward nonetheless.

"Having said that, I feel that it is time for those among us who are keen to see the SAPS move forward and achieve the set objectives to stand up and raise their voice against those who want to drag us backwards."

Bribery matter
There is said to be strong support for Phiyega in the police force, and she is receiving backing from many generals and brigadiers.

"We have the right person at the helm and she is going to change the whole engine of this ship," said one senior officer.

The trouble for Phiyega started after a Democratic Alliance parliamentary question in early October about whether there was a bribery matter involving a provincial commissioner.

In her memo Phiyega notes: "In the normal process of gathering information, to enable the department to prepare a response on the minister's behalf, the DA inquiry ended up in the provincial commissioner's office after passing through various officials.

"It was at that point that the provincial commissioner [Lamoer] called me to inquire about the investigation. It therefore cannot be argued that I have alerted the provincial commissioner about the investigation. Simply put, I committed no crime."

The "gangster" accused of giving a bribe to Lamoer, a Parow businessman who asked not to be named, told the Mail & Guardian that he had been falsely accused.

The man has not yet been officially named by police, but he said the furore had taken a toll on his family and his health.

He said crime intelligence had obtained permission to tap his phone and examine his financial statements after it falsely claimed he was a "drug dealer".

The man, who said he runs an audio business, claims to have been Lamoer's friend for many years. He had continued to call Lamoer, despite knowing their phones were being tapped. "It is absolutely sickening what they have done to us. They have devastated our lives."

On Wednesday the police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, called for the IPID to be given "space" to investigate the claims against Phiyega.

 Riah Phiyega (right) is being investigated for allegedly talking to Western Cape police boss Arno Lamoer (left) about a probe into whether he accepted a bribe from a 'gangster.' Photo: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times