eThekwini police find themselves on the ‘wrong side of the law’

25 July 2017 - 08:07
By Nathi Olifant
Deputy head of metro police apparently sanctioned a directive that reflective orange jackets be given to the ANC for use during their centenary celebrations.
Image: iStock Deputy head of metro police apparently sanctioned a directive that reflective orange jackets be given to the ANC for use during their centenary celebrations.

The eThekwini municipality is sitting on another damning internal report that implicates the city's police services - this time for giving reflector jackets earmarked for scholar patrols to ANC officials to use at a party.

A December 2014 eThekwini internal audit report recommended that disciplinary action and criminal charges be instituted against deputy head of metro police Steve Middleton for sanctioning a directive that reflective orange jackets be given to the ANC for use during their centenary celebrations.

In addition‚ it was proposed that the city recover the cost of the jackets - almost R25‚000 - from him.

The emergence of this report comes after another internal audit report surfaced last month which found that the city's police wasted R4-million to hire more than 50 top-end vehicles.

Of the fleet‚ eight cars were allocated for the protection of eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede ahead of the August local government elections.

The emergence of the latest report comes after the city confirmed last week that metro police head Eugene Nzama would be taking early retirement.

Nzama and Gumede have had a number of political and operational differences.

The investigation into the jackets follows a tip-off from former metro police support services manager Innocent Chamane‚ who was gunned down in November 2015. At the time‚ Chamane was mired in several scandals linked to the department's K9 unit.

The report fingers Middleton as a culprit who‚ in contravention of city laws and other applicable legislation‚ instructed junior staff at the metro police stores to hand over 219 reflective orange jackets to the ANC for use at the party’s centenary celebrations at Moses Mabhida Stadium in January 2013.

According to the report‚ the reflective jackets were meant to be used by scholar patrols but were hastily diverted without following procurement procedures.

The items‚ with a combined value of R24‚517.50‚ were collected by Bheki Mngwengwe‚ then an ordinary ANC member. He is now the ANC’s ward 87 councillor.

The city’s investigation unit said that Middleton‚ Mngwenge and another implicated official‚ Vincent Ngubane‚ the head of emergency control services‚ had failed to avail themselves for interviews.

However‚ in email correspondence revealed in the report‚ Middleton alleged that he had received an instruction from higher up to release the jackets and that he believed that he was being victimised as the matter was previously investigated.

Middleton said: “I have seen [the] report of years ago. I thought you were referring to a recent possible new report. It's factual. I have never been interviewed by city integrity‚ but I have seen [the] old report. Its emergence now relates to the head [of the] metro police vacating his seat soon‚” said Middleton.

Middleton referred further questions to the metro police spokesman Sibonelo Mchunu‚ who was not available.

Meanwhile DA leader Zwakele Mncwango‚ who had called for a probe into the irregularities of how the vehicles were hired‚ questioned the use of audit units when its reports are "never acted on".

Mncwango said: “If it was not Nzama who authorised jackets and procured 51 vehicles‚ Middleton should tell us who did. It just makes sense to say perhaps it was Zandile Gumede‚ who was chair of the security committee at the time.

“However‚ Middleton has allowed himself to be used in political battles and he clearly aligned himself with Gumede and ANC internal battles‚” said Mncwango.

eThekwini municipality spokeswoman Tozi Mthethwa said the office of the city manager, Sipho Nzuza, was aware of the report unit’s report.

Asked if it was ever tabled before council and what resolution was taken on it Mthethwa said: “The report was for the City Manager and not Council."

Asked why the municipal manager and his line managers never acted on it, Mthethwa denied this claim.

“While the City does not comment on employer-employee matters in an effort to protect the rights of the employee, however, we can confirm that the matter has been in process since March 2015. There have been many delays relating to the regulated steps to be followed when dealing with a matter of this nature, which have included referrals both to the South African Local Government Bargaining Council and the Labour Court,” she said.