Much of the gang violence in Cape Town has been fuelled by the sale of guns to criminals by members of the SAPS. Were two of the Western Cape’s most senior anti-gang specialists, Peter Jacobs and Jeremy Vearey, unexpectedly shafted by former acting National Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane because they were getting too close to finding out which policemen and politicians are in cahoots with the gang bosses?
One of the more controversial assertions made by Major-General Peter Jacobs, the shafted provincial head of Crime Intelligence in the Western Cape, in his submission to the Labour Court earlier this year is that the SAPS could be facing massive damages claims from the families of bystanders, many of them children, maimed or killed while caught up in gang warfare that has raged unstoppably in the region for years. At least 261 children were shot in the Western Cape between 2010 and 2016.
It was as a direct result of police negligence in overseeing the destruction of recovered stolen firearms between 2010 and 2014 that these firearms had flooded communities, Jacobs told the court. Investigations into criminal activity in the Western Cape had revealed that corrupt officials were supplying illegal firearms, as well as illegally providing firearm licences to gang leaders such as Ralph Stansfield.
“The consequence was the injury and death of a large number of people. Self-evidently this use of weapons should have necessitated the increased allocation of resources to recover them and prevent further killing. The SAPS elected to do the opposite; 1,060 murders were committed with these weapons between 2010 and 2014. This figure will grow exponentially unless the firearms are recovered.”
Jacobs added that former police colonel Chris Prinsloo, recently sentenced to 18 years for his role in the theft and sale of guns to gangsters, had not acted alone, and approximately 1,200 firearms had not yet been recovered. “Part of our investigation was to trace and recover the firearms, identify the people using them and bring them to justice,” said Jacobs.
On 3 August this year the labour court set aside the sudden demotion in June 2016 of Jacobs as head of Crime Intelligence to cluster commander in Wynberg, and that of Major-General Jeremy Vearey from deputy provincial commissioner of Crime Detection to cluster commander, Cape Town Central. Both these new positions are regarded as “benign” and the demotions appear to have been directed at neutralising the pair.
“The SAPS has elected to curtail our investigations by transferring us and decimating the team we supervised,” said Jacobs. He and Vearey suggest in court papers that they were about to make more arrests when they were suddenly removed from the operation.
|Major-General Jeremy Vearey|
And while the court in August ruled that both seasoned policemen immediately return to work, National SAPS leadership is appealing the decision.
The highest command of the SAPS is in essence in contempt of court, having informed Jacobs that he may not return to his job in spite of the court ruling.
The question is: why would SAPS leadership, with the apparent blessing of the minister, be so opposed to two experienced and fearless police officials returning to a job they appear to have been doing well?
There has been no real explanation from Minister Fikile Mbalula, or a succession of national commissioners or acting commissioners, who have played musical chairs in the top job while the country burns and bodies pile up. Some of the mystery is cleared up in Jacobs’ and Vearey’s affidavits in the case.
“At a national level, third applicant (Vearey) and I were tasked during April 2016 by the then acting national divisional head of Crime Intelligence, Major-General Makhele, to develop an approach to address and combat inter-provincial taxi conflict between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. A report and project were duly produced, including implementation guidelines.”
May following the money trail have led to powerful political players there?
Criminologist Mark Shaw reveals that 42% of hits in South Africa between 2000 and 2016 were related to taxi violence and points to a lethal and toxic intersection between organised crime, business, the SAPS and regional politics. (See Books in this issue.)
Vearey is an expert on gangs, particularly in the arena of intelligence and detective investigation. He had been involved in Slasher, an anti-gang operation, as well as counterterrorism operations, yet, he says, his skills are not being used to curb gang violence in the Western Cape.
Jacobs and Vearey unexpectedly learned of their demotions at a meeting in Cape Town on 13 June – ostensibly called to discuss the placement of cluster commanders in line with a new cluster concept. At the meeting General Ngwenya informed Jacobs that he would in fact be transferred to Wynberg. This came as a shock, he says, as he had not been given any notice or reason for the transfer.
Later in the day Acting Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane announced the promotion of five brigadiers to the rank of major-general. One of them was Major-General Mzwandile Tiyo, who then replaced Jacobs in the key post as head of Crime Intelligence.
In 2014 Tiyo had unsuccessfully applied for that very position. Tiyo contends that then national commissioner Riah Phiyega and then provincial commissioner Arno Lamoer conspired to withdraw the post in order to frustrate his application, and that Jacobs had been “instructed” to find reasons to discipline and dismiss him.
In reply, Jacobs said that he had been informed that Tiyo was not suitably qualified for the senior position, that he did not have matric and, crucially, had not received the required security clearance.
The minister and SAPS commissioners’ appeal against the Labour court’s ruling reinstating Jacobs and Veary is still to be argued.
Make no mistake, those two police officers will not go quietly. They know too much.
Adapted from a story that first appeared in the Daily Maverick, where Marianne Thamm is assistant editor.
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