Police are blaming a murdered top cop’s “reluctance to cooperate” for not concluding a threat assessment that could have prevented his assassination in 2020.
Police Minister Bheki Cele appeared before parliament’s portfolio committee on police after the widow of murdered lieutenant-colonel Charl Kinnear, Nicolette Kinnear, submitted a petition surrounding her late husband’s death.
The anti-gang unit detective was assassinated outside his home in Bishop Lavis, Cape Town, on 18 September 2020.
Kinnear’s petition was straightforward. She wanted to know why protection services were removed from outside their home on 19 December 2019 and what happened between 6 September 2020 to the day of Kinnear’s murder on 18 September 2020.
Her questions also emanated from the promises Cele made following her husband’s death. Visiting the family a day after the murder, Cele promised an investigation and report into why protection was withdrawn from their home.
In her petition letter to the portfolio committee, Kinnear explains her husband informed her on 5 September 2020 that his phone was being tracked, referred to as “pinging”.
“My husband was fuming about this and wanted to know what was going to be done to secure his safety. It has now also come to light that a report was drafted containing the information regarding the ‘pinging’ of my husband’s phone.
“This report was hand-delivered to Hawks head General Godfrey Lebeya and Crime Intelligence head Major General Pete Jacobs on 6 September 2020.”
Two weeks later, Kinnear was shot dead outside his home.
However, minister Cele’s attempt to respond at the portfolio committee was short on answers.
He told the committee that “the investigation has not yet been finalised”, with a brief disclaimer that they must speed up the matter.
Cele told the committee that a threat was identified involving four police officers, including Kinnear, on 13 November 2019.
The threat was reported a day before the murder of police officer André Kay only a few streets away from Kinnear’s home.
Following this incident, the police provided 24-hour static protection at the Kinnears’ residence, during which a hand grenade attack outside the home occurred. Instead of maintaining the interim security, “a decision was taken to withdraw the static protection capability”, as the deployment was a temporary measure to “provide protection pending the outcome of a formal threat assessment”.
The threat assessment was never finalised.
In response to why the assessment was not finalised, the police ascribe it to Kinnear’s “reluctance to cooperate with national counterintelligence”.
According to the police, the threat and risk assessment was initiated on 14 November 2019, the day of the murder of police officer Kay.
“After several attempts to conduct the threat and risk assessment, the assessor met with Kinnear on 11 March 2020, in Cape Town. Due to operational commitments, Kinnear requested that the assessment be postponed to a later stage. Subsequent to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, the finalisation of the assessment was further delayed,” the police told the portfolio committee.
But Kinnear’s widow says the police are “passing the buck” and “they are looking for excuses why they did not finalise the assessment.”
She recounts that a scheduled meeting on 23 November 2019 relating to the threat assessment was cancelled, after which her husband had to travel to Johannesburg for work but offered to meet them there. National police commissioner General Khehla Sitole was also in attendance before the committee. He elaborated on the threat assessment, which falls under the police safety strategy under the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) security policy.
He said the threat assessment is conducted for all SAPS members, irrespective of their title.
The only suspect arrested for the murder of Kinnear is Zane Kilian. His bail application is expected to resume in the Bellville regional court in Cape Town on Friday, 26 February 2021.