Sapu head ‘beaten’, arrested after damning letter alleges top-cop graft
Union suspects sinister motive behind arrest after he writes to Ramaphosa and Bheki Cele on SAPS corruption
The arrest and alleged assault of South African Policing Union [Sapu] head Mpho Kwinika came just days after he wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa and police minister Bheki Cele calling for the suspension and criminal investigation of national police commissioner, General Khehla Sitole.
But the police maintain there was nothing sinister behind Kwinika’s arrest in Sunnyside, Pretoria two weeks ago, saying he was taken into custody during a routine law enforcement operation.
Kwinika, whose right arm was fractured and left eardrum damaged during his arrest, appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court last Wednesday on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.
He is to appear in court again on April 17.
Sapu believes the arrest of Kwinika, who has yet to approach the Independent Police Investigative Directorate [Ipid] about his apparent assault, is directly linked to an explosive letter he wrote to Ramaphosa and Cele on 20 March two days before his arrest.
Kwinika's letter calls for a board of inquiry to be established into Sitole’s fitness to hold office and claims the national commissioner – by allegedly irregularly classifying procurement documents – has deliberately stonewalled an Ipid investigation into the attempted theft of R45m from the SAPS Crime Intelligence slush fund.
The attempted theft, which Kwinika highlights in his letter, allegedly saw senior police officers in December 2017 plan to buy a sophisticated cellphone monitoring device through an emergency procurement, using the slush fund.
The attempted theft – and Sitole's classification of procurement documents – have been the subject of a protracted legal battle between the police and Ipid since 2018. Ipid claims its investigations show the procurement was not an emergency and the device’s costs had been inflated from R7m to R45m.
Ipid investigators in their affidavits, which they filed as part of their 2018 legal challenge to get access to the classified documents, alleged Sitole misused his authority to classify documents linked to the procurement.
In two letters to Cele in March and April 2018, the inspector general of intelligence, Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe, asks him to have the documents declassified “as they do not relate to any intelligence operation”.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said Kwinika’s letter had been referred to the police ministry for response.
Cele’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, confirmed the letter had been received.
“It is being processed.”
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo, declining to respond to detailed questions on the letter’s allegations, said Sitole had served for more than 30 years in the police with an unblemished record.
“He will continue to stay true to the cause of the successful implementation of the SAPS turnaround vision and will not allow himself to be detracted in any way.”
Kwinika in his letter, which Times Select has seen, claims the SAPS is going through a “crisis of leadership”.
“Issues unfolding in the public domain ... call into question the continued leadership of the police by Sitole.”
Kwinika writes that the recent position taken by Sitole, in parliament, on matters of crime intelligence as not being captured must be taken with a “pinch of salt”.
“The type of answer he gave cannot deny the reality of years of crisis … to the detriment of the safety of South Africans.”
Kwinika slammed Sitole over his refusal to declassify documents needed by Ipid to investigate the alleged attempted R45m theft.
“ ... senior officers and a government official are themselves alleged suspects in this matter of alleged corruption ... the law frowns upon the principle of classification of documents for purposes of hiding or concealing corruption.
“If this is not a compelling reason to suspend Sitole pending an inquiry, nothing can be. A transparent investigation of this matter is impossible with Sitole and all allegedly implicated officers still sitting in their offices.”
Kwinika takes Sitole to task over his failures as the SAPS accounting officer, and accuses him of repeatedly violating the Public Finance Management Act in the handling of disciplinary processes against senior officers who are under criminal investigation.
There needed to be proper investigations into why officers “are sitting at home earning a salary without delivering any value for the SAPS”.
“Sitole has unlawfully and negligently failed to ensure the finalisation of disciplinary processes, some of which go back to June 2017.”
He said that despite two generals and a brigadier being suspended in November 2018, their hearings had not begun.
“This means that these officers are now supposed to be back at work as there is no legal process that allows the continued non-utilisation of their services. At the moment these officers are on what is called special leave, an unlawful and expensive process prohibited in the public service.”
Kwinika also criticises Sitole for his handling of former Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Deliwa de Langa’s removal from office, claiming she had received a golden handshake when she did not qualify for one.
SAPU general secretary Tumelo Mogodiseng said the union strongly suspected that Kwinika’s arrest was linked to the “strongly worded” letter.
The union had met Cele last week to discuss the letter, and would meet again this week.
Kwinika’s lawyer, Modisaotsile Mokomane, said they were waiting for certain documents from the police before approaching Ipid.
He said the charges against Kwinika so far are only allegations, “which must be tested and proven in court”.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said: “[For Ipid] to open a case one needs the details of the complaint. In this case, our investigators have followed up with Kwinika. We are waiting for his statement.”
In regards to the battle with the police over the classified documents, he said Ipid had filed legal papers in response to police challenging their subpoena of senior management, including Sitole, to give their investigators access to the procurement information.
"We are now awaiting for new court date to be set."