Sunday, April 1, 2012

Top cop accused of covering up shooting

BRETT HORNER | 01 April, 2012 00:49

Nine explosive affidavits detail how SA's acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Nhlan-hla Mkhwanazi, admitted to colleagues that he helped cover up the killing of an unarmed suspect - which he had witnessed.

The Sunday Times has seen extracts of the damning statements, which were compiled by shocked police officers present at the meeting in Durban last month.

The affidavits have been filed with public protector Thuli Madonsela.

The police officers state that, on March 5, Mkhwanazi told the meeting that he would take to the "grave" details of the shooting by an elite special task force, which he headed at the time - unless called to testify at an inquiry.

Madonsela is contemplating an investigation. Her spokesman, Kga-lalelo Masibi, said: "The public protector is not in a position to comment about the fate of the police commissioner."

Her office added that a decision on the investigation would be made this week.

This week, Mkhwanazi refused to comment. But his spokesman, Brigadier Lindela Mashigo, said there was another version to the story.

"Please note that, as it should be obvious to you, there is another side to this story, namely the version of the acting national commissioner," he said. He refused to provide the Sunday Times with Mkhwanazi's version.

It's believed the incident occurred after 2005, when Mkhwanazi became head of the elite special task force.

Mkhwanazi headed the force, which he commanded for six years, before his appointment as acting national police commissioner in October last year.

Extracts from affidavits given to the public protector by DA police shadow minister Dianne Kohler Barnard confirm Mkhwanazi's admission.

One read: "Mkhwanazi then unequivocally confessed to being present when this deceased was arrested 'unarmed' and then later shot and killed in his presence, and to date has done nothing about it."

Said another: "He mentioned an incident where the subject was neutralised wrongfully in his presence ... he was part of that operation where a suspect was murdered in cold blood."

Each of the nine accounts contains similar allegations, and all corroborate Mkhwanazi's refusal to sign a statement after the killing.

"He stated that he will go to his grave with that incident, as he refused to make a statement," wrote another officer.

None of those who authored the affidavits have been identified for fear of reprisals, after Mkhwanazi recently vowed to fire those responsible for leaking a report to the Sunday Times that revealed more than 27000 officers were incompetent to handle firearms.

The affidavits were compiled by junior and senior cops with ranks "across the board", said Kohler Barnard. She added the statements were signed and notarised, and the originals given to Madonsela's office.

She said: "The acting national police commissioner must be suspended with immediate effect."

This comes four months after a Sunday Times investigation exposed an alleged police hit squad operating in KwaZulu-Natal.

The shocking exposé revealed that the Organised Crime Unit at Cato Manor operated as an alleged hit squad, executing suspects and then holding booze-fuelled parties.

About 51 suspicious killings have been linked to the alleged hit squad, which has since been closed down by police top brass.

Following the meeting on March 5, Mkhwanazi led a delegation to the family of killed taxi boss Bongani Mkhize, who was allegedly gunned down by the Cato Manor unit in 2009, and promised to act against police brutality.

Two weeks ago, he released a statement saying: "Such officers must face the full brunt of the law, and their incarceration must be a reminder to other police officers of the consequences of abusing their powers."

In October, when the Sunday Times compiled a profile of Mkhwanazi shortly after his appointment, a former task force operative, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, conceded that Mkhwanazi, who joined the police service in 1993, had personally joined major raids and the unit's signature operations to ambush criminals during robberies.

"He has been on the ground outside a lot, so you can say he's an action man," the operative said.

"It's just hard for me to see how [Mkhwanazi] has the experience to run the entire police force."

The special task force has rescued scores of hostages under Mkhwan-azi's command and used unorthodox methods to catch criminals.

In December 2007, 11 cash-in-transit robbers were shot dead by his crack team in an incident close to the Carousel casino near Pretoria.

Former colleagues describe him as a man who hates bureaucracy and "red tape" and is suspicious of the media.

Mkhwanazi - who is trained in the use of explosives, holds bomb-disposal certification and has completed a counter-terrorism course with the FBI in the US - also said: "What I know best is fighting crime."

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has previously defended his appointment, hailing him a "tried-and-tested cop" who had "excellently distinguished" himself.

This followed criticism of President Jacob Zuma for installing Mkhwanazi in the hot seat after national commissioner General Bheki Cele was suspended.

"For the record, the minister at the time the acting national police commissioner was appointed was stating the commissioner's policing career CV because some in society had questioned his credentials," said Mthethwa's spokesman, Zweli Mnisi.

Times Live

Comments by Sonny

The Great Zuma conspiracy!

Zuma appoints Cele as SAPS Commissioner, Cele gets to powerful, Zuma suspends Cele who has appointed Makwanazi as acting commissioner, Zuma then appoints Mdluli to take over from Makwanazi..... and so the plot for dictatorship thickens!

Zuma backs Malema, Malema wants to share in Zuma's greed, the ANC suspends Malema and the next line of Hyenas wait to take over from Zuma after his demise..... The circle of life and death of the ANC continues!

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