Limpopo deputy police commissioner Major General Jan Scheepers has strongly denied allegations that he was influenced to “get rid of” axed Western Cape head of detectives Major General Jeremy Vearey.
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The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union lodged a dispute in terms of procedural and substantive fairness with the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council following Vearey’s dismissal in May 2021.
“My investigation was not about Vearey or against Vearey or any action to get rid of him,” Scheepers told the bargaining council on Monday.
Vearey was dismissed after he was found guilty of bringing the South African Police Service into disrepute following eight Facebook posts between December 2020 and February 2021, which contained links to media reports.
Most of the posts referred to disciplinary charges against former crime intelligence boss Peter Jacobs. National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo described the social media posts as “derogatory, offensive, insulting and disrespectful”.
Jacobs was the head of crime intelligence in the Western Cape before he was transferred in 2016 while working together with Vearey on project Impi — an investigation into gun smuggling.
On Monday, advocate Johnny Nortje, representing Vearey in the arbitration process, cross-examined Scheepers. Nortje brought forward a string of allegations previously outlined in reports by media outlets such as IOL and the Daily Maverick.
Nortje argued Scheepers was appointed as investigating officer into the matter relating to Vearey despite his possible conflict of interest, as both were vying for the post of Western Cape provincial commissioner at the time.
“Is it not so that you were short-listed for the position alongside Mr Vearey?” Nortje asked.
Scheepers said he had been short-listed but Vearey was never a candidate in that process.
“If you remember correctly he later on claimed that his documents went missing. But when we went for the interviews we were four people, and he was not one of them, so I was never contesting with Jeremy Vearey,” he said.
Another allegation Scheepers dismissed was that of Cape crime intelligence boss Major-General Mzwandile Tiyo, who replaced Jacobs in the position. Nortje argued that the origin of the complaint against Vearey was from Tiyo, who he said was the head of a “rogue unit” comprising members of the crime intelligence unit in the Western Cape.
Disagreeing with Nortje, Scheepers said the complaint originated from Naidoo.
Scheepers maintained that his investigation into Vearey was solely “to see if there was any misconduct in terms of the national instruction of the communications policy of the police by Major General Vearey during the [social media] postings” and that no other investigation influenced his findings.
“It was an independent investigation. The question was, did he conduct himself in the manner you would expect from a major general in the police service, yes or no. I got nothing to do with all these theories of national management involved,” he insisted.
Scheepers added: “The national commissioner did not call me somewhere privately and say ‘I want Jeremy Vearey out’. I did this [investigation] without any influence, and if someone should have tried, I would [have] reported it.”
Responding to Nortje’s assertion that Scheepers wanted to “nail” Vearey, he maintained: “No sir, it was an independent investigation.”
Nortje asked if the reason why Scheepers was appointed as investigating officer was that he “had no clue what was going on with the proliferation of guns [that were being smuggled between Gauteng and the Western Cape]” as he lived in Limpopo.
“Your statement of ‘we had no clue’ is not correct. The reason I think they have chosen me to investigate these high-profile cases [is that]) I was never in my life charged. I cannot be bought by anyone. I even had politicians try to influence me, but I have never budged,” Scheepers replied.
The bargaining council is set to continue with its hearing on Tuesday, with Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntsingha appearing. Advocate Omphemetse Mooki, representing the police service, said police spokesperson Naidoo might also testify.