Six women have been counselled in Mpumalanga for sexual crimes allegedly perpetrated by a top cop in the province, according to a dossier seen by the Mail & Guardian.
Two of the women declined to speak to the M&G, but they confirmed the contents of the dossier. They also said they would not open a case against Brigadier Sifiso Cele, who has been touted for a promotion.
Cele, the acting Witbank station commander, is apparently up for a promotion to the rank of major general, the third-highest in the South African Police Service (SAPS). A source said Cele’s name appears on their organogram as station commander, but that he has not been officially appointed.
Cele has denied the rape allegations, saying that they were part of a smear campaign and that criminal charges should have been opened if the accusations were true.
The dossier details that the six officers were counselled by Lieutenant-Colonel Anya Christoppoulos, the employee health and wellness professional and psychologist in the South African Police Service (SAPS).
She said all inquiries regarding the allegations should be referred to the national spokesperson, Brigadier Vish Naidoo, or Mpumalanga’s provincial spokesperson, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi.
“I am obliged to respond only through our communication office. I did give them my statements on the matter,” Christoppoulos said.
One of the alleged victims the M&G contacted was transferred to Gauteng last year, according to a source close to the matter.
In his denial, Cele says that whenever there are rape cases, arrests are made.
“When you make rape allegations, it is not a matter that you can just do counselling for [without opening a criminal case]. You have to open a criminal case and not just talk. The police don’t play with issues of rape; you must open a case and say whether you stand by the allegations you make,” he said.
“I was shocked [by these allegations] and I thought, ‘How can I be accused of a serious offence such as rape?’ That is defamation of my character.”
Cele was to have received his new rank from the national police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, two Fridays ago during the launch of the police’s Safer City programme, but the event was postponed at the last minute. Cele’s alleged promotion would have been in contravention with the SAPS Act because it was not advertised, according to the sources who compiled the dossier.
Naidoo said the national office was not aware of the rape allegations against Cele, and that Christoppoulos “is in fact not aware” of the rape claims.
“The meeting of the national commissioner in Witbank was not meant to promote any member, but it was a dialogue regarding [the] Safer City concept.
“The brigadier you mentioned that was to be promoted has not been; he remains a brigadier,” Naidoo said.
Peter Ntsime, the South Africa Police Union’s acting deputy general secretary, said the union was aware of the rape allegations against Cele.
“We note with concern the serious rape allegations that are levelled against Brigadier Cele and find it unacceptable that, during these days when our country is battling gender-based violence [GBV], the SAPS seem to be not only doing nothing against GBV among its ranks but also rewarding alleged perpetrators.
“It is clear the SAPS is paying lip service to the fight against GBV. This also indicates that the war against GBV in the community will never be won through the SAPS that protects alleged perpetrators in its ranks.”