Under the firm guiding hand of Police Minister and disgraced former national commissioner Cele, the SAPS has been increasingly following in the same brutal, corrupt footsteps as its apartheid predecessor. As then, it does not hesitate to turn on its own. In the early 1990s, security policeman Jikazi was murdered before he could expose his white colleagues who were stealing petrol from police stores. The corruption appetites of the new power elite have grown with the eating. it is the very many SAPS members who take their oaths of office to report any suspected wrongdoing to management, regardless of who the wrongdoer is, seriously, that are in the firing line. In the Free State, Senior Administrator Patricia Mashale, is at the front of this line. The usual weapon is dismissal using an unfair labour practice, expeditious disciplinary actions, but the way in which Ms Mashale has been targeted by her own colleagues during the past few months points to her own life, and possibly the lives of family members, being in danger. She has now heard there are plans to arrest her on a trumped-up charge of perjury and remove her to somewhere far away from her home without registering details on the police system. She fears that they want to make her ‘disappear’.
As a very senior and experienced Administer in a unit dedicated to priority crimes, Ms Mashale has, true to her oath of office as a police member, dutifully reported corruption, including irregular appointments and promotions, and firearms-related criminality, to her line managers or the Hawks. The current wave of persecution started after she sent a dossier on corruption in disciplinary hearings, and how they were being used to settle scores, to National Commissioner Sitole in January 2021. It was never acted on, but details were leaked to his former Free State colleagues. Initially a charge of misconduct for reporting to Sitole was opened, but it was not pursued. Then a case of harassment was opened against her in the Family Court by one of those she had named in the dossier, and her personal cellphone was illegally seized by police members. Months later it has not been returned to her, despite the illegality of the seizure having been drawn to the attention of the National Head of Legal Services, with the request that it be returned, six weeks ago. She is also under surveillance. On 21 November the car she normally drives to collect her son from a boarding school a long distance away, which was driven by another family member, qA followed all the way home by police in unmarked vehicles who, on finding that she was not in the car, lost interest. Severely traumatised, she sought professional assistance and, when she handed in her medical certificate, was instructed to ask her therapist to put the diagnosis ‘depression’ on it (he refused to commit fraud. In January she was informed that she would have to attend an Expeditious Disciplinary Hearing, to be chaired by one of the members whose irregular promotion she had reported, leading to its reversal.
The Free State Provincial Commissioner who authorized the disciplinary hearing is .Lt-General Motswenyane. Serious questions arise about her appointment as her five year contract had ended in February 2021, and appears to have been irregularly extended. She had previously been Provincial Commissioner in the North-West Province and is alleged to have outstanding cases against her there. It was as Commissioner in that province that she achieved notoriety as Second Respondent in an Interdict Application brought by then IPID head Robert McBride in 2017 to stop the police under her command from obstructing IPID investigations into then Acting National Commissioner Phahlane for crimes including money laundering and corruption, for which Phahlane is now on trial. She herself was under IPID investigation for establishing a team (headed by a notorious torturer) specifically to interfere with the investigations, making it impossible for IPID to finalise them at that time (the chief investigator has since been murdered). She stands accused of taking no action against serious allegations of sexual harassment made by female members, including station commissioners, against a District Commissioner, who also stands accused of blatant racial discrimination against ‘coloured’ and white members.
The Human Rights Commission CEO confirmed to the SAPS that Mashale had fulfilled the requirements of making a Protected Disclosure. Shortly thereafter his (the CEO’s contract) was not renewed. It is known that there is political interference, including in appointments, in the SAHRC. Two weeks ago she discovered that the personal phone she is now uses has been hacked. She cannot access her emails, and her bank has informed her that her personal details have been leaked.
This latest development, the threat of an unprocedural arrest, is linked to the harassment case opened against her in 2021. Having obtained a Protection Order herself against the management member, Mashale has challenged his action through a recission application. which, following several postponements, is set to be heard on 13 April. She has been informed that the charge she now faces is one of perjury for submitting an affidavit to the Family Court stating that the Protection Order obtained against her had been set aside – which it has been pending her recission application to be heard, together with the management member’s matter, in April.
Ms Mashale has been giving her support to hundreds of SAPS members who have been persecuted by corrupt, incompetent management, many of whom have been illegally dismissed. Advocate Malesela Teffo, from whom she and others receive legal assistance (https://mg.co.za/opinion/2022-02-21-advocate-dan-teffos-life-may-now-be-at-greater-risk-than-ever) has won many cases to reinstate illegally dismissed workers and the police refuse to reinstate them, even after they have won arbitration awards and, in some cases, obtained Labour Court Orders. They have now discovered that despite supposedly having been dismissed, these members have never received dismissal letters signed by the National Commissioner, and their details are still reflected on the SAPS administrative systems. Their contributions to the Government Employees Pension Fund and SARS continue, but they are not receiving their salaries. Who is pocketing their salaries? They have attempted to open fraud and corruption charges against SAPS management but have allegedly been told to change their statements before cases are registered. At least one other affected member has been threatened with malicious, and serious, criminal charges.
Like Advocate Teffo, Ms Mashale has been drawing the attention of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and the Presidency to these abuses for years but no action whatsoever has been taken against the man who is responsible for allowing criminality to flourish in the police, Minister Cele. National Commissioner Sitole has become a scapegoat, but the rot is far more widespread. Until there is a forensic audit of all management members and their qualifications, nothing will change. The removal of Sitole must also be accompanied by a forensic investigation of Free State management, and all allegations of illegal conduct. Unless these steps are taken, immediately, the insatiable corruption appetites will continue to flourish, many competent and experienced members will be lost to the SAPS, and violent crime will continue its destructive path.
Ms Mashale fears that the criminal SAPS tactics used in the arrest of Advocate Teffo by apartheid era police members, leading to his detention in prison for ten days without having appeared in court, will be used against her, probably with lethal consequences as the annual death toll in police custody is high. Why, despite its supposed support for the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and Whistle-blowers, and its anti-corruption rhetoric, have all of those who could have acted to protect her and prosecute wrong doers not done so? Her persecution, and the threat she is now facing, must lead to immediate action at the highest levels of government to ensure her protection, while simultaneously initiating concerted action to root out the endemic criminality which festers at all levels of the SAPS and poses a threat to the lives of all South Africans.