SUNDAY TIMES - Airport heist drama twist: 5 cops transferred from OR Tambo
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Sunday Times News By GRAEME HOSKEN, 2017-03-19 00:04:00.0

Airport heist drama twist: 5 cops transferred from OR Tambo

O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. File Photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Foto24/Brendan Croft

Five top police officers are being transferred from OR Tambo International Airport after the spectacular R200-million cash heist there, but their union says they are being targeted for blowing the whistle on corruption and crime.

Three days after the March 7 heist at the airport, the five lieutenant-colonels, all of whom are border-policing shift commanders, were called to the police headquarters in Pretoria, the South African Policing Union said.

Botsile Maimela, Moira Pearce, Funeka Mfazwe, Thedingwane Nanyane and Fankie Malepa were given 21 days to take up new postings in Gauteng. The "intended transfer orders", seen by the Sunday Times, were signed by Major-General Elias Mawela, the divisional commissioner of the South African Police Service operational response services. "Service delivery" was cited for the five's transfers.

Sapu national negotiator Alfred Tlou said Mawela had called the five to a meeting and told them they would be transferred due to the robbery. The meeting had been held on acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane's orders.

Colonel Athlenda Mathe, Phahlane's spokeswoman, refused to answer questions about the transfers.

Tlou claimed Mawela told the five they should have foreseen the robbery.

However, the union believes the five are being victimised.

Sapu president Mpho Kwinika said the five had expressed concern in the past about policing at the airport. "Instead of being congratulated for upholding their oath of office and reporting corruption, [they] have been victimised by management who they requested help from," said Kwinika.

In papers filed in the Labour Court, Tlou said the five had previously claimed that they were being victimised for querying the lack of proper internal investigation into police corruption at the airport.

Malepa had been one of the first officers to raise the alarm about the heist, said Tlou.

"He received the warning at 5pm. He got his members at the charge office to spread the word ... [about] the impending attack. He, along with the others ... are being targeted by management. We want to know why," said Tlou.

Previous attempts to transfer the five officers after they had expressed concern about alleged corruption were overturned by the Labour Court in 2013, said Kwinika.