Crime Intelligence puts gag on officers
Police officials have been sworn to secrecy following leaks of sensitive information, including that which led to the downfall of spy boss Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli.
Several months after a barrage of allegations - including widespread corruption, looting of a secret police slush fund and the murder of a former lover's husband - brought Mdluli down, The Times has established that all members of the Crime Intelligence Unit have been made to sign confidentiality agreements in a massive clampdown on whistle-blowers.
Two weeks ago, police officials in Gauteng, including senior policemen and administrative staff, were handed a document prohibiting them from discussing with the media any information pertaining to police matters.
Failure to adhere to the confidentiality agreement could result in policemen being charged departmentally - even if only on suspicion. They could be subjected to polygraph tests and have their cellphone records scrutinised. Even worse, they could be fired.
The clampdown was enforced just two weeks after newly appointed national police commissioner Riah Phiyega took command.
Though it is not known who ordered the gagging, Crime Intelligence officers say it amounts to "scaring" and "bullying" tactics.
Major-General Chris Ngcobo has been appointed acting head of Crime Intelligence until the issues around Mdluli have been resolved.
National police spokesman Brigadier Lindela Mashigo said yesterday that there was "nothing sinister" about the confidentially agreements.
"It is standard practice, and especially in the crime intelligence environment, that confidentiality agreements are signed so as not to jeopardise sensitive operations."
But at least three long-serving Crime Intelligence policemen said even colleagues who were on leave were called back to their office to sign the agreements.
"It clearly shows that they want to victimise those who have legitimate concerns about some of the dealings within this unit. Crime Intelligence is in a mess and it's no secret.''
Mdluli, they say, would not have been exposed had it not been for the courage of some of their colleagues who leaked dossiers on his alleged criminal activities to the media.
"Apart from the millions he is alleged to have siphoned from the police slush fund, he is also implicated in a murder," said a senior police officer. "The police sat with this information and reported it to some of their superiors, but were instead victimised.
"As a police officer, you cannot sit like a stooge and allow senior officers to commit crimes. [Then you would be] as good as guilty just by association."
Mashigo failed to answer detailed questions about who ordered the gagging and why, and what measures would be taken against officers found to have leaked information.
Institute for Security Studies policing expert Johan Burger said he found it "quite strange" that the police were now going all out to protect information. Burger agreed it was necessary for the police to protect sensitive information pertaining to state security, but said this should not be an excuse for protecting officials implicated in crime.
"They are more intent on pursuing the person who leaked info about a criminal activity [than] asking why they have a criminal among them."
The police should be questioning why its members leaked information to journalists instead of following internal channels, said Burger.
"Because internal structures [to encourage whistle-blowing] don't work well, and because members don't trust some of their superiors . that's why we have leaks."
Burger pointed to leaks that led to the axing of former national police commissioner Bheki Cele for his role in the awarding of controversial police headquarters lease deals.
Earlier this year, acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi threatened to fire his entire internal audit team if they refused to disclose who had leaked a document on firearm competencies.
In March it was reported that the unit had compiled a scathing draft performance audit report that said that 27329 police officers on active duty had failed their firearm proficiency tests.
In April last year, The Times reported that Mdluli had allegedly launched a witch-hunt to stop two Crime Intelligence officers investigating his alleged role in the murder of Oupa Ramogibe, a former lover's husband. Mdluli has repeatedly denied the allegation.
The two seasoned policemen had been subjected to surveillance and unauthorised cellphone tapping since February 2009 and were threatened with demotions and transfers to units hundreds of kilometres from their homes.
The murder and other criminal charges against Mdluli were provisionally withdrawn earlier this year. An inquest into Ramogibe's death is under way.