Crime intelligence bosses lose bid to have suspensions overturned

Intelligence officers will have to foot their legal bills after losing court bid over suspensions.

Six top South African crime intelligence officers not only lost their court case to have their suspensions overturned, but they will have to pay their own legal costs, the court ruled.

National crime intelligence boss Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, Brigadier Albo Lombard, Colonel Isaac Walljee, Colonel Manogaran Gopal, Major-General Maperemisa Lekalakala, and Colonel Bale Matamela were suspended in December over personal protective equipment (PPE) fraud. The Inspector-General of Intelligence alleged they had abused the secret service account to fraudulently procure PPE.

The officers were represented by the South African Police Union and took their employer, national commissioner General Kehla Sitole, to court, claiming his move to suspend them was unlawful. They maintained he did not adhere to the Intelligence Services Oversight (ISO) Act in taking the decision.

However, the Pretoria high court found on 8 January that not only was Sitole permitted to take this action, he was also legally obligated to do so.

The officers’ suspensions came days after the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Dr Setlhomamaru Dintwe, alerted Sitole to allegations of procurement irregularities on 27 November 2020. According to the judgment, on 30 November 2020, Sitole appointed Lieutenant-General Francinah Vuma to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations. They were all served with notices of intention to suspend and invited to make written submissions on why they should not be suspended.

High court judge AJ Minnaar set aside Jacobs, Lombard, Walljee, Gopal, Lekalakala, and Matamela’s appeal and ruled that they should pay their own legal costs. Minnaar said the applicants were aware of Dintwe and Sitole’s approach and reasons for instituting disciplinary procedures before they decided to challenge their suspensions.

He said they had acted in their own interests when they sought to be reinstated.