SAPS is ‘a patronage system…..Promotions in this area will be related to protecting seniors involved in corruption and maladministration’
Robert McBride, then head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, in his evidence to the Zondo Commission
The findings of the Zondo Commission into State Capture, and even the scandal of President Ramaphosa’s ‘Farmgate’, have their roots in a Presidential Proclamation issued by newly elected President Zuma in 2009 which led to the creation of what was to become a Frankenstein Monster : The Ministry of State Security. That, and the re-militarization, and intensified politicization of the SAPS through cadre deployment, were accompanied by the increasing culture of secrecy and lack of accountability, which gave rise to the passing of the Protection of State Information Act, and stalled the country’s faltering steps towards democracy. Although not (yet) signed into law, its contents have informed the conduct of government – including its increasing authoritarianism and over-zealous classification of documents which should be public – since then. All these actions have shaped the structures of governance, and the culture that informs them, and have made a mockery of the rights enshrined in the Constitution – even the right to life, as the case of whistle-blower Patricia Mashale illustrates. Laws are broken with impunity, and government employees with integrity (even in some tertiary institutions) who dare to speak out about abuse and corruption lose their jobs, or even their lives, rendering government platitudes about fighting corruption meaningless. Increasingly, ministers have breached their legislative mandate by involving themselves in operational matters, treating their departments as private fiefdoms. Increasingly, too, we have journeyed down the apartheid surveillance-cum-police state road, with the very state institution charged with upholding the law breaking it – and the spirits of SAPS members who risk their lives dealing with criminals – with impunity. Currently, an experienced, competent, police member of great integrity, Patricia Mashale is in hiding, in fear of her life, from her very own police management colleagues simply because she fulfilled her oath of office, and she did what the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act demanded of her, by reporting gross police corruption to her line management. To make matters worse, the very institutions that should be standing up for her, and taking up the anti-corruption cudgels, are letting her down, including the supposed prime guardian of democracy, Parliament.
[Politics runs operational policing: Why Patricia Mashale is in danger of being killed
Patricia Mashale, a very senior administrator in the Free State SAPS FLASH unit, dealing with priority crimes such as firearms controls, joined the SAPS in 2007, shortly before it started expanding its management structures exponentially, when Minister Cele was appointed National Commissioner in 2009, to accommodate and fast-track increasing numbers of political cadres and family members in its top-heavy structure. The SAPS is currently headed by 200 generals and 400 brigadiers – most of them incompetent – costing taxpayers R1 billion a year.
This ballooning created new, superfluous, departments to benefit cadres, relatives, and friends. One department (previously a division under a commissioner) which plays an important role in the atrocious treatment of Ms Mashale, and hundreds of other competent police members, is the Human Resources Department falling under another new component National Advisory Services. It, too, is over-staffed with generals (most incompetent), the most senior being a deputy national commissioner. This department plays a pivotal role in irregular appointments and promotions, and illegal dismissals (ably assisted by its legal services department; the current head is known to have overturned at least one legal dismissal, her department being complicit in hundreds of illegal dismissals).
The current National departmental head, Lt-General Vuma, is the First Respondent in the case in which Judge Norman Davies slammed the SAPS management for breach of the IPID Act.[ii] This case makes it abundantly clear that it is politicians who run police operational matters. Vuma, the First of four Applicants, supplied the principal founding affidavit and waxed lyrical about why the SAPS could not respond to an IPID subpoena and declassify documents relating to the planned procurement of a ‘grabber’ interception device for the ANC’s Nasrec because it could compromise national security:
It is therefore our humble view [her affidavit reads] that any attempt to comply with the said subpoenas will be an infringement of law and a disclosure of sensitive National Security and Intelligence information that has the potential of compromising National Security and exposing the intelligence gathering mechanisms and sources”.
As Judge Zondo has now confirmed, it was the Fourth Respondent, Mbindwane, the advisor to then Minister Mbalula, who drove the acquisition process, with police management simply doing what they had been doing for years and following ministerial instructions. This case was used to motivate for the dismissal of General Sitole, probably because he tried to assert a spark of independence from Cele – begging the question of why Vuma has not been dismissed.
It was Vuma who, in September 2021, issued a circular inviting ill-trained reservists and clerical staff to become operational members (but, as with other positions, it was largely well-connected reservists who were chosen above more deserving ones). At the same time, long serving, experienced police members were being dismissed using a process called Expeditious Disciplinary hearings.
The context of these disciplinary hearings is one in which ‘discipline’ in the SAPS, i.e. legislative rules and regulations governing procedures and conduct which are standard bureaucratic norms, are implemented has, according to long-serving, well trained members, been abandoned. It has been replaced by autocratic governance at the whim of whoever the management member is and his or her connection to nepotistic, corrupt networks. Reasons for instituting these procedures, which invariably lead to dismissals, include asking awkward questions of management about promotion policies, or about corruption, or questioning an illegal or life-threatening instruction, or even because an incompetent but politically well-connected superior officer feels threatened by a competent, better qualified member. Advocate Dan Teffo has won many disciplinary cases, but reinstatement of members is refused, even when court orders are obtained. Because autocracy dominates, a favourite charge (not only in the SAPS) is ‘insubordination’. Because members fear to lose their jobs by questioning their superiors (who, due to nepotistic appointments, may be ill-qualified), lives may be lost. For example, in a recent incident, a unit commander was ordered to undertake a dangerous operation against well-armed criminals, despite not having enough members to do so safely. He had raised the same problem previously with his superior who had taken no action, but he did not date question this order by going above the immediate line manager’s head to ask for more members, because a colleague who had done that had lost his job. The unit commander reluctantly obeyed, hoping all would be well, but during the operation a young member he regarded as a son was shot and died in his arms. He is traumatized for life.
Other creative means are used to dismiss members who are a thorn in some management’s flesh. A highly experienced, black female branch commander in Gauteng found herself medically boarded without ever applying for it (she had made herself unpopular by putting white suspects in cells). A junior colleague had issued death threats against her, so she had been advised to work away from the shared detective office. She then discovered she had been medically boarded, and, because she loved her job, started a long process to be re-instated, while the junior colleague who had threatened her got her job. Management claimed her application (never made) had been lost. The then Human Resources head lied to parliament about it (she was subsequently dismissed for fraud by General Sitole, much to the chagrin of Minister Cele who had fast-tracked her).
In addition to dismissals, malicious criminal cases may be opened against members who expose corruption; they may even be denied bail if police are acting in collusion with prosecutors (who delay bail applications). Although she was given bail, a middle-aged social worker in the Family Violence unit was charged, after her dismissal, with crimen injuria and, when she reported to the Senior Public Prosecutor, was sent to cells for the day and kept in leg irons (the prosecutor is alleged to have a relationship through marriage with a politically well-connected SAPS member). When the docket was eventually found it had no charge sheet.
The persecution of Patricia Mashale
This was the fraught work environment, in which most management members had climbed the promotions ladder politically in then Premier Ace Magashula’s Free State, in which Mashale diligently performed her administrative duties (Magashula is now facing charges relating to State Capture). In the course of this work she uncovered a great deal of corruption in SAPS ranks, including serious firearms-related crimes (reported to the Hawks) and irregular appointments and promotions (reported to her line management).It was her whistle-blowing in 2021, carried out in accordance with anti-corruption legislation, which led to the persecution she has endured for over a year, and the fact that she has to remain in hiding for fear of being killed. She had reported serious irregularities in disciplinary hearings (e.g. pursued to settle personal vendettas) and appointments implicating members of Free State management to National Commissioner Sitole, and her report found its way back into the hands of those she had reported, i.e. Free State Management. The threats started in earnest.
An internal case was opened against her for reporting to the National Commissioner, but that was dropped. However, a deputy provincial commissioner, Lesia, opened a case of ‘harassment’ against her in the Bloemfontein Family Court (see below). He also opened a criminal case against her, when, in October 2021, he sent a Colonel van der Merwe and Operational Response Team members to arrest and intimidate her, and illegally seize her personal telephone (he claimed she was spreading fake news about him).Apparently that case (said to be harassment, which does not exist as a crime) was sent to a prosecutor in Welkom in November. Mashale eventually managed to open a case against Lesia (she was initially blocked by a station commissioner) and it is under investigation by IPID. She has had no feedback whatsoever about this, and other matters she has reported, from IPID (including a case she opened against the Provincial Commissioner, which seems to have disappeared). The phone has still not been returned to her, despite an appeal to the head of Legal Services in January 2022. In November the family car used to fetch a son from boarding school was followed for a long distance by unmarked cars transporting a uniformed police member. They lost interest when they discovered she was not in the car. She realized she was under surveillance and, traumatized and fearing for her family’s safety, she took sick leave, only to be told when she handed in her medical certificate that her therapist should diagnose her as depressed (which she wasn’t). Her therapist refused to commit fraud. In January, she received notice that an Expeditious Disciplinary hearing would be held against her. The Presiding officer was a brigadier, whose irregular promotion to general she had exposed (based on arbitration findings against him), and he had been demoted and instructed to pay back the additional salary. All of this, including the irregular composition of the Disciplinary Inquiry, was drawn to the attention of national management and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee in January. In February, her replacement telephone was hacked, virtually everything wiped off it, and her bank advised that personal information had been compromised. She assumed that she had some legal protection when the CEO of the SA Human Rights Commission Intervened and gave her whistle-blower status (The CEO has not had his contract renewed). However, Mashale was advised on 1 March that she had been dismissed, without any salary or other benefits (e.g. leave money due) paid to her. The SAPS member subsequently transferred to deal with firearms licensing (the position vacated by Mashale) knew nothing about this work and endorsed license renewals without proper procedures being followed (also reported to parliament). Her transfer was allegedly linked to a personal relationship with a management member.
Increasing numbers of illegally dismissed SAPS members – many dozens – contacted Mashale. These dismissals had breached the SAPS own Disciplinary regulations (2016, Sections 8 and 9), and their dismissal letters had not even been signed by the National Commissioner (who, from various independent reports, seems not to have been kept fully informed about what was happening, even in his own office). Their details, including their contributions to the government pension fund and SARS (Revenue Services), were still reflected on the SAPS administrative system after they were dismissed, despite their not receiving salaries – raising questions about who was pocketing their salaries. SARS have been advised about this.
Due entirely to Mashale’s efforts, a meeting attended by the Deputy Minister of Police, the Deputy National Commissioner, the Executive Director of IPID, (the supposedly independent police oversight body reporting to the Police Minister) and representatives of NADEL (the Democratic Lawyers Association) was held in Bloemfontein on 25 April. Those representing government claimed not to know about what had been happening, and promises were made to address re-instatement issues, with NADEL lawyers overseeing the process. Mashale was widely acclaimed by dismissed SAPS members :
‘Patricia Mashale, your name is known wide and far. In every corner of South Africa you are known as the Angel who are saving members of SAPS and their families from starvation and misery’
However, two months later this initiative, which seems to have been a face-saving exercise by government representatives, is dying a quiet death. Of great concern is that a message has gone out, apparently from Minister Cele or members of his entourage which, crudely put, says that he will consider re-statements only if police members stop blaming him, the Honourable Minister, for their problems. A subtle message has also been put out that aggrieved members should distance themselves from Mashale if they want their jobs back. These dismissals are in breach of laws and a minister has absolutely no right to take any decisions about who is appointed or dismissed in the SAPS, which is in complete breach of governing legislation. It is not part of ministerial mandates. The Honourable Minister seems not to understand that South Africa is a constitutional democracy, not a tribal fiefdom.
The grossly irregular involvement of Minister Cele in operational matters has been drawn to the attention of the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on more than one occasion (e.g. that he runs a detective team investigating political killings in KZN) yet nothing has been done to stop it. The unfortunate impression created is that parliament simply rubber stamps whatever the Minister and the SAPS are saying and doing, and have no idea of what their oversight role entails.
So, in addition to the death threats hanging over Mashale’s head, the SAPS and the Ministry is now using the type of classic colonial divide-and-rule tactics, refined by apartheid under the rubric ‘PsyOps’ against Mashale to try to discredit her in the eyes of her many supporters.
Current serious threats to Mashale’s safety
As mentioned, in addition to a mysterious criminal case, Deputy Free State Commissioner Lesia had obtained a Protection Order against Mashale and her husband and, discovering that it had been finalised, they immediately applied for recission. Mashale had also, while at work, obtained an interim Protection Order against Lesia. At the time of her dismissal, she was informed that she was to face a criminal charge of perjury linked to her application for the Protection Order – which was untrue; she had correctly stated that his Order was set aside pending the recission application. She immediately went into hiding, fearing that she would be maliciously arrested and effectively ‘disappear’ into some distant prison.
When a hearing in the Family Court took place in April, her husband represented her, but she had to attend a hearing to finalise this case on 31 May. At the hearings in 2021, Lesia had arrived in court with members of Operational Response Team (TRT and POP), which was completely irregular since this was a personal, not a policing, matter. This irregularity was drawn to the attention of national management and the parliamentary oversight committee.
As 31 May approached, Mashale was terrified of attending court, and two letters were sent to the National Commissioner, copied to parliament, pointing out that Lesia had no right whatsoever to waste police resources on what was a private matter. Mashale managed to gather a group of supporters, including dismissed members, who accompanied her to the hearing. This is her report from court, which cites material now on the court record :
‘Colleagues we are done at court case postponed until 13 July, reason being that a neutral magistrate was appointed. The case will be heard at the magistrate’s court because the current magistrate said this case is too hot for hem because the matter is much bigger than they anticipated. She also didn’t want to preside over the matter because she and G [Mashale’s husband] had worked together since 2004 and she doesn’t want to be accused of being biased. She also raised issues regarding the enormous police presence at court and said that she counted 11 police cars and even felt intimidated herself by so many police officers that were brought to court by Maj-General Lesia, citing that she couldn’t believe that so many police were there to protect him against one woman. (italics added)
‘She told us that the docket is not being kept at the Domestic Court anymore because they have information that there are people who attempted to steal the docket, the docket is being kept in safekeeping in her office, and when she leaves for the magistrate’s court, she must make sure the docket is with her She also feared that she might also find herself in danger because of that, and she might even come under attack by the same police officers who were there to protect Lesia, and if she as a magistrate feels that threatened, she doesn’t even want to imagine how I (i.e. Mashale)feels.
‘The matter of this docket was discussed by all the senior magistrates this morning, so they are aware that there is more than the eye could see because very influential people like the President and the Ministers are
monitoring this case. The next court date : 13 July 2022 at the Magistrate’s Court
Clearly, despite letters on record to national management and parliament, no action whatsoever was taken to stop this grossly irregular conduct – and waste of taxpayers’ money – by Lesia. Parliament has been kept fully aware of the serious threats to Mashale’s life, but there is no evidence of any remedial action on their part. Take, for example, the matter of the threat assessment, which the committee had apparently requested from the police. It was conducted by a very experienced member of Crime Intelligence, Warrant Officer Maasdorp, who confirmed that the threat emanated from the SAPS. When he presented his report to his commanding officer, he was ordered to change it. He refused, and, for refusing to lie, and for behaving in an ethical manner, in refusing to accede to unlawful instructions and commit fraud, he is now facing an Expeditious Disciplinary hearing and may well be dismissed himself. This treatment of Maasdorp was reported to parliament, and its response was that the wrong type of threat assessment had been done. As with other responses, parliament quoted from what the police, who are known to be, at best, economical with the truth, had told them. The instructions given to Maasdorp were in writing, and he had fulfilled them, as he had done with countless other threat assessment reports over decades in his job. There is no indication that anyone in parliament followed up on what was an extremely serious allegation against Free State management, i.e. trying to make one of its members lie to parliament. He was also put under huge pressure to reveal Ms Mashale’s whereabouts, which he refused to do.
Attempts were then made to pressurise family members of Mashale, including a brother who was a neighbour of one of the police members, to reveal her whereabouts. They refused to do so. On the evening of 23 June, shots were fired by men in a bakkie at her brother, Shawn Meyers, and he narrowly escaped injury, or possibly death, by hiding in a nearby yard. When he tried to open a case of attempted murder the police refused saying there was no case as none of the bullets had hit him (they presumably did not even know it is a criminal offence to fire a gun in public).
The police are desperate to trace Ms Mashale, who now has, yet again, to court in July for a purely malicious matter. Will the Deputy Provincial Commissioner, again, bring a huge posse of taxpayer-funded police members– desperately needed to fight rampant crime – to court with him in pursuance of his private vendetta?
Beyond the Zondo Commission report
The cases cited in the Zondo Commission report provide only a few examples of the extent to which the South African state, starting with the security of residents and the state itself, has been criminalised. State capture extends beyond the Vrede dairy farm to policing not only in the Free State, but the whole country. It is common knowledge that most Free State management members owe their positions to Magashula, and his protegees are well represented in national management structures. Similarly, it is known that many KZN police support Zuma, including dozens at one urban station who refused to act against looters last July, and even intimidated their colleagues who did. The damage done to policing during the State Capture years and beyond, up to the present time, is inestimable, and is the main contributing factor to South Africa’s abnormally high levels of criminal violence.
There are current parallels with the pre-1994 negotiation period, when most apartheid police in management did not support de Klerk (there were even fears that they might stage a coup), and now, when key members of SAPS management owe their positions to the Magashula/Zuma ANC faction and, with exceptions the loyalty of intelligence agencies, especially State Security, is factional, and (again, as last July shows) does not serve the interests of the country. As violence climbed to unprecedented levels in KZN in April 1994, a senior, well-placed Nationalist Party representative put it bluntly : ‘You cannot purge the police, for you would be lucky if you were left with only ten percent of them’
However, the ANC government, in a constitutional democracy, is purging the police of good members to extend its own corrupt nepotistic network.
All the police oversight bodies lack independence, as they are controlled by the minister, which is a particularly serious problem in the case of IPID, the supposedly Independent oversight body. The Constitutional Court has made it clear that IPID lacks the independence which the Constitution requires, yet over five years later parliament is dragging its heels in obeying the highest court of the land and passing legislation removing IPID from the control of the Minister of Police. Whether it is the rampant abuse, torture and killings by brutal SAPS members, or illegal dismissals of competent, professional members, IPID (which is currently divided over the appointment of the current CEO, who is claimed to be merely a front for Cele_ simply cannot do its job properly as it conflicted. Parliament, like the Chapter 9 institutions, has become completely toothless.
Although he is Commander-in-Chief, the President is not in charge, as his orders (e.g. about protection for Thabiso Zulu) are overruled by his Minister of Police. This is the minister who was dishonourably discharged from his position as National Commissioner – where he had started the capture of the police by crooks such as apartheid security policeman Mdluli and his fellow intelligence henchmen – and who signed off on the corrupt World Cup tender [iii]for which the KZN Provincial Commissioner he appointed, Ngobeni, and businessman Panday, are being criminally charged. Why has he not been charged?
This is the man who, with the assistance of his apartheid era police advisers, runs what he treats as his own empire like a Bantustan. For the sake of South Africa, who will dare to stop him – starting with clamping down, immediately, on his interference in operational matters, including appointments and dismissals, and investigations into serious political crimes?
REFERENCES INCLUDE :
McBride quoted in The Witness newspaper 17 April 2019
Re: Protection State Information bill see‘Beyond Apartheid : The New Nationalists and the Protection of State Information Bill’ November 2011 www.violencemonitor.com
Davies Judgment Case E No 49791/2018 in the High Court Gauteng (Pretoria Division)