Moerane Commission update: SAPS lies

Glebelands Hostel is the epicentre of political killings that have taken place in KZN.

Provincial SAPS leadership testified at the Moerane Commission last week. Evidence leader, Adv Manyathi presented them with 31pages of witnesses’ allegations against them ranging from negligence to actual criminal involvement in a number of killings in KZN. One of the former Umlazi Cluster Commanders, Maj Gen Chiliza lied under oath. He wasn’t alone; the other 5 senior commanders also backed him, but Chiliza’s testimony was particularly shocking. He claimed to be unaware that Sipho Ndovela and many of the other Glebelands leaders killed had been receiving threats and were in danger. I have evidence in the form of emails, screenshots of Whatsapp conversations etc that prove he lied.

glebelands hostel, Umlazi V, Umlazi, South Africa

On 21 February, the Moerane Commission of Inquiry into KwaZulu-Natal’s political killings presented 6 members of the SAPS provincial management with Exhibit DD, 31 pages of allegations against its members made by those who had testified prior to 16 August 2017. Since then, the police have been legally represented at the Commission. In line with its terms of reference, the Commission provided the police with an opportunity to respond, but what followed was a depressing parade of denials, obfuscation and lies as senior law enforcement sought to deflect the heat and perjured themselves in the process.

First up was Deputy Provincial Commissioner, Major General Dumezweni Chiliza, accompanied by top brass, acting Provincial Commissioner, Major General Bhekinkosi Langa, Brigadier Bongani Maqashalala, Brigadier Tebogo Mbhele heading the Provincial Task Team investigating most of the murders, Major General Hendrick Chauke and Major General Pitso Ramatsoel. Chiliza had been Umlazi cluster commander prior to his early-2016 promotion, which has since seen him in charge of operational response throughout the province.

Dealing with the evidence of violence monitor, Mary de Haas – a veteran human rights defender, academic, social worker and anti-apartheid champion since the 1980s – Chiliza quickly came unstuck.

De Haas had testified regarding widespread allegations of collusion between the police, the ward 76 councillor and hitmen at Glebelands Hostel; the apparent lack of independence in police response mechanisms; malicious arrests and certain SAPS members’ active participation in the waves of evictions that left hundreds of residents homeless and destitute.

De Haas’ testimony also covered complaints she had sent to senior SAPS management regarding a police officer and Glebelands resident, who was believed to be behind most of the hostel assassinations. In an email dated 21 April 2015 sent to the Umlazi Cluster Commander (at the time Chiliza) and the Provincial Commissioner, de Haas had re-forwarded previous requests for investigation (dated September 2014) and drawn SAPS management’s further attention to the illegal evictions, alleged use of state-issue firearms in the violence as well as the officer Mdweshu’s involvement in the killings.

Her letter stated: “Central to what is happening at the hostel is … a man named Mdweshu, who is said to be a policeman based at Durban Central SAPS and who lives in the hostel complex. Residents allege that there are three R5 or similar security issue weapons, a number of 9mm guns, and official issue ammunition on the premises. These weapons appear to be in … Room 24 Block 52.”

Durban Central SAPS detective Bhekhukwazi Mdweshu was among those arrested on 6 December last year, and, along with 17 counts of murder and attempted murder, had also been charged with the unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm (according to the charge sheet, a semi-automatic 9mm from which the serial number had been removed) as well as ammunition.

At the time, de Haas forwarded the same string of emails to then Durban Central Cluster Commander, Gen Bala Naidoo, drawing his attention to the allegations about his officer Mdweshu and requested that concerns relating to police guns be investigated.

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To date there has been no response to any of the numerous complaints regarding Mdweshu, his hitmen or their guns.

Interestingly, in his recent response to Parliament regarding 2,027 SAPS guns that went ‘missing’ over the last 3 years, former Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, reported that more than a quarter (567) were from KZN of which Durban Central SAPS armoury recorded the highest number ‘stolen.’ Only one member had apparently been dismissed after an internal investigation.

Naidoo was subsequently promoted to Deputy Provincial Commissioner: Investigations, at the same time as Chiliza, but since retired in a blaze of glory at the end of 2017.

In response to de Haas’ damning testimony, Brig Mbele provided the Commission with a convoluted discourse on ballistics – the similarities between AK-47, R5 and LM6 cartridges (semi-automatic rifles favoured by private security companies).

Mbele admitted, “In some cases, there are high calibre cartridges found.” A hallmark of KZN’s political killings has been the regular use of state-issue high calibre automatic rifles, pointing to police complicity or direct involvement.

Denials

Advocate Moerane suggested Chiliza “knew something” about the murder of Glebelands resident, Sipho Ndovela, gunned down on 18 May 2015 at the entrance to the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court. In the same email that no one supposedly received, just a month before Ndovela’s death, De Haas had also alerted SAPS management to threats on his life. Below is an excerpt from that email:

The email continued:

Chiliza however denied all knowledge of the letter, or any of the other requests made for police protection for Ndovela, including from the victim himself, and claimed his death: “…was a shock to all of us.” But Chiliza lied.

As evident in de Haas’ letter, by providing a supplementary statement, Ndovela would not only implicate Glebelands notorious warlord in the murder of Fikile Siyephu, but also his investigating officer in defeating the ends of justice. The same investigating officer was among those Umlazi SAPS members repeatedly fingered by residents for collusion. Astoundingly, management saw fit to deploy the same investigating officer to escort Ndovela to court on the day he was killed.

Chiliza suggested to Adv Moerane that the reason Ndovela was not under police guard and left the court building after which he was shot, may have been because “he got excited when the case against him was withdrawn.”

More lies

Chiliza omitted to tell the Commission how Ndovela had called his investigating officer to collect him from court, not once, but twice. How, during the second call, his investigating officer had instructed Ndovela to meet him at the court entrance gate, a considerable distance from the relative safety of the court orderlies, willfully exposing Ndovela to the gunmen he almost certainly knew were waiting. Had there been a proper investigation as alleged by Chiliza after Ndovela’s death, phone records would have easily disclosed the facts.

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Chiliza also lied when he claimed: “It was just a captain that knew about the threats.”

However when de Haas had notified Chiliza about the threats to Ndovela’s life, she had also arranged for the Umlazi Head of Detectives, Col Singh, to personally take Ndovela’s statement. The author had been on her way to accompany Ndovela to meet Singh when news was received of his murder. For good reason he had been fearful to meet the police alone. Singh was after all Ndovela’s investigating officer’s commander.

Chiliza claimed he was unaware of the outcome of the alleged internal investigation into the matter. But we can enlighten the Commission that Ndovela’s investigating officer is still on duty at Glebelands. W/O Cebekhulu was never charged with the murder of Sipho Ndovela for which Mxolileni Bhani was later convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

And Chiliza continued lying, basically insinuating all who testified had suffered some elaborate anti-SAPS fever dream. Yet on 27 May 2015, Themba Pina had also reported to Chiliza, threats he and fellow resident, William Mthembu were receiving, and forwarded the Whatsapp message onwards to the author.

 

After Ndovela’s murder, community confidence in the police was predictably rock bottom, and Pina stated he did not feel safe to visit the Umlazi Police Station to make a complaint – of which Chiliza was only too well aware when he advised Pina to do so.

 

Pina was killed on 5 June 2015, only 9 days after reporting the threats to Chiliza, while Mthembu was murdered 3 months later. However, despite more than 100 people having allegedly been killed by Glebelands assassins, Chiliza denied the hostel had become a haven of hitmen.

Page after dreary page of similar allegations – a litany from bereaved across the province – were placed before the police: tampering with evidence, failure to call witnesses, suspects’ inexplicable release, poor communication, intimidation, political interference, fabricated charges, torture, harassment, obfuscation, denials and lies.

The SAPS will provide further “detailed evidence” on 12 March, after which the Commission will submit its report to the Premier, Willies Mchunu, nearly 18 months and many millions of rands after it was established in October 2016 to uncover the underlying causes of the so-called political killings in KZN, public perceptions thereof and police operational response.

A day after the SAPS performance, the EFF’s national spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, told the Commission the police only acted when instructed to do so by the ANC. And herein lies the truth, provided in seconds without any cost to the public.

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