The head of the detective service in the Western Cape, Major General Jeremy Vearey, risks dismissal after a disciplinary hearing found he had brought the South African Police Service into disrepute with a series of social media posts tacitly impugning national commissioner Khehla Sitole.
In a decision dated 27 May, Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga, who chaired the disciplinary process conducted last month, concluded that anything short of dismissal would amount to condoning Veary’s conduct.
The finding would have to be confirmed by Sitole.
Vearey was charged with bringing the police service into disrepute with eight Facebook posts between December 2020 and February 2021 containing links to media reports. Most of these referred to disciplinary charges against former crime intelligence boss, Peter Jacobs.
Vearey is perceived to be close to Jacobs, who represented him in the disciplinary meeting.
The posts were read as tacit criticism of Sitole. One post from January 2021 included a picture of the national commissioner and a caption by Vearey which read: “an acute case of foot-in-mouth” disease, according to Ntshinga’s 14-page finding.
Another post from February, reprised a News24 article about Jacobs going to court to challenge the charges against him and was captioned “Moer hulle! Fuck them!”
Two senior officers on whom Sitole had relied upon in dealing with the misconduct charges against Jacobs, became aware of Vearey’s posts and told the inquiry that as a result they felt intimidated and unsafe.
The charges levelled against Vearey relate to provisions in the police service’s discipline regulations, specifically National Instruction 5 of 2017 which states that officers may not engage in communication on social media that may bring the police into disrepute.
Vearey argued, inter alia, that he had no charge to answer as there was no misconduct as defined by the regulations and that the elements of a charge must include the employee’s exact location and that in this instance his was not indicated.
“I have heard the response of the employee to the allegations of misconduct against him, and I am of the view that the employee is refusing to take responsibility for his own actions,” Ntshinga found.
She said the fact that there were eight separate posts indicated that Vearey had acted deliberately and his actions pointed to gross ill discipline.
Like Jacobs, Vearey is a former member of Umkhonto weSizwe. In 2016, both were transferred while involved in an investigation into police officers who supplied weapons to gangsters in the Western Cape. Both successfully challenged their transfers in the Cape Town labour court.
Jacobs went on to become crime intelligence chief but was served with a suspension notice in November last year and in March was transferred by Sitole to the Police Inspectorate. He had this time successfully turned to the Johannesburg labour court to halt a disciplinary process, claiming that his suspension was linked to protected disclosures he made against senior police officers.
Vearey began his career in policing shortly after the advent of democracy and served a stint as a bodyguard to Nelson Mandela while he was president.
Read Ntshinga’s findings below: