Ipid: Don't probe us if we're probing you
Ipid wants a court order stating that police implicated in wrongdoing can’t get involved in investigating the officers probing them
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is fighting a potentially landmark case in court on Wednesday – one that aims to protect its officers from being personally targeted by the police they investigate.
Neither Police Minister Bheki Cele nor National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole are opposing the Ipid’s application.
The case was born out of the ugly legal drama that erupted between former National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane and Ipid, after the directorate launched a high-profile corruption investigation into the police chief.
The state was forced to provisionally withdraw its fraud and corruption case against Phahlane, his wife Beauty and Pretoria used-car dealership owner Durant Snyman earlier this month. Specialised Commercial Crime Court magistrate Nicca Setshogoe refused to grant the state’s application for a three-month postponement of the case‚ saying: “When the investigation is complete‚ you can bring the matter before court.”
Phahlane and his wife had faced six counts of corruption for allegedly receiving or accepting gratifications from Snyman – in a scheme where he allegedly used car deals with the pair to pay them kickbacks on behalf of a forensic-supply company doing business with the police.
The National Prosecuting Authority has stressed that the state still believes there is a prima facie case against Phahlane and his co-accused. Once outstanding investigations are complete, the state says, it is likely the case will be re-enrolled.Ipid and its head Robert McBride, meanwhile, want the North Gauteng High Court to order that “it is unlawful and/or unconstitutional for any member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to undertake or oversee an investigation into a member of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) if he/she has a personal interest in such an investigation, or is himself or herself the subject of an Ipid investigation”.
In other words, Ipid wants a court order stating what seems to be obvious: police implicated in alleged wrongdoing can’t get involved in investigating the Ipid officers who are investigating them.
The directorate claims Phahlane and certain officers linked to him were directly involved in investigating the officers responsible for probing corruption claims against him, and also targeted forensic consultant Paul O’Sullivan and his colleague Sarah-Jane Trent. Both O’Sullivan and Trent were part of the Ipid investigation into Phahlane.
But Phahlane and the North West police officials named by Ipid as his allies aren’t convinced, and argue this type of order may be ripe for abuse by Ipid officials implicated in criminality.
In court documents, the police state: “Simply put, once there is an investigation involving an Ipid member for alleged criminal conduct, he could immediately lay a complaint against such investigation officials, alleging some ground of criminal conduct (albeit justified or not) and thereby frustrate investigation into himself.”