/ 25 December 2023

Top cop faces investigation over ‘criminal activities’

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Hot water: National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola (above) has ordered a probe into the conduct of Mpumalanga police head Lieutenant General Semakaleng Manamela. Photo: Frennie Shivambu/Getty Images

National police commissioner Fannie Masemola has instituted a wide-ranging misconduct and corruption inquiry into Mpumalanga police head Lieutenant General Semakaleng Manamela, who was recently suspended for showering herself with R2.1 million in state-funded gifts. 

Several highly placed sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, gave details of the Masemola-commissioned inquiry against Manamela. 

One of them showed the Mail & Guardian a list of 10 senior Mpu-malanga officers who had testified against Manamela during the inquiry and are apparently being victimised by their provincial boss.

Speaking on behalf of Masemola and Manamela, national police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe confirmed the Mpumalanga head was being probed. 

“The national commissioner has established a board of inquiry. The team is yet to conclude its work.” 

The national police commissioner’s office did not respond to questions regarding a “leadership crisis” looming in Mpumalanga because of infighting among the province’s police top brass. 

A Pretoria high court judgment in March noted how Masemola had bungled his initial suspension of Manamela, pending an inquiry, which stemmed from a forensic investigation in May last year into how the provincial commissioner allegedly used public funds amounting to R2.1 million to purchase furniture and other household items, among other things, to celebrate her July 2021 appointment.

The court judgment read: “[Masemola’s] notice [to suspend] was so devoid of any detail that it was impossible for [Manamela] to provide any substantive response. 

“The notice failed to give any particularity, save to say that the applicant [Manamela] had received gifts and that she will be furnished with more particulars in future.”

The top cop has launched a fresh inquiry into Manamela’s fitness to hold office, with several generals and managers called to testify allegedly being victimised by her. The senior officers included Major General Lilly Lentsoane and Brigadier Lindani Ndlovu, who is a station commander in Vosman, eMalahleni. 

The report from May last year further implicated Manamela in trying to remove Ndlovu “because he is seen as a threat in fighting illegal miners in the Vosman area”. 

“Transferring him [Ndlovu] to Siyabuswa [and] disregarding his family amounts to an abuse of power,” reads the report. 

A separate police dossier dated December 2023 claims Manamela “is being locked in a cage from disciplining those who serve under her as part of her authority to manage and apply disciplinary action to those who do misconduct”, including Lentsoane.

The dossier says that during a service delivery protest in eMalahleni, where residents hurled stones at then mayor Conny Nkalitshana for allegedly suggesting they did not need electricity as they did not own fridges, Lentsoane stopped the police from protecting the mayor.

“They [the Mpumalanga generals] are now instruments of political factions as police seniors are taking sides. If you go and investigate what happened on the day the mayor was attacked you will realise that the police pulled back,” the dossier reads.

The M&G ran a series of stories from June last year reporting on voice recordings from employees in Manamela’s office, where senior officers, including Middelburg police station commander Thandi Jiyane, spoke about taking money from Mpumalanga business people and forwarding it to Manamela’s “private people”. 

These recordings form part of evidence that Manamela heads a money-laundering racket among police in Mpumalanga, sources said. 

The M&G has established that the 10 generals who testified against Manamela at the inquiry have stopped taking orders from her. 

She is also accused of purging officers who oppose the money-laundering scheme she allegedly heads.

Another insider said Vusi Shongwe, the community safety, security and liaison MEC in Mpumalanga, tried to mediate between Manamela and the senior officers, noting that the situation had become untenable. 

“But these senior officers said they cannot go to the [mediation] meeting because they were the very same people who testified during the inquiry. 

“And the outcome of the inquiry has not been released yet; it is akin to the sub judice rule in court,” said the insider, who is close to the upper echelons in Mpumalanga.

Describing how the inquiry had come about, another source said that the senior officers had gone to Masemola to ask for help regarding their alleged victimisation. 

“Under normal circumstances, if I have done something wrong and am working under the provincial commissioner, I must subject myself to that disciplinary action,” said the source. 

“But here, it is not just one person, it is [many] senior generals and managers in the SAPS. It cannot be correct for many people to say, ‘Something is really wrong here.’”

The information was confirmed by a senior officer close to Masemola’s office, who said Manamela had received a standing, verbal directive not to institute any disciplinary action against provincial police generals because of “the volume of complaints that have come against the Mpumalanga commissioner”.

Police spokesperson Mathe said Masemola’s responsibility was to ensure the “smooth running” of the police force. 

“With this said, the [national police commissioner] maintains an open-door policy in which all provincial commissioners are at liberty to raise any concerns and issues relating to service delivery,” Mathe said. 

“On that note, we are therefore not aware of any internal conflict — we are only aware that police in Mpumalanga are hard at work in heightening police visibility to prevent and combat crime this busy festive period and beyond.”

During Mpumalanga’s police excellence awards on 6 December, Manamela received public backing from Shongwe. 

He lauded Manamela for her good work in rooting out police corruption, including the August arrest of three officers — sergeants Collen Nonyane, Sunday Mashego and Bhekinkosi Godi — for their alleged role in a cash-in-transit heist near the border with Mozambique. 

The three were nabbed with explosives as well as AK-47 and R1 assault rifles and other weapons. 

“It [the police arrest] did not come to Mpumalanga as a manna [from heaven] — it came out because there [was] a combination of the security cluster that worked in making sure that they intercepted those policemen,” Shongwe said.