Crime intelligence officers are often forced to commit crimes and get prosecuted for them in the course of their work, according to police union boss and crime intelligence expert Mpho Kwinika.
Kwinika was responding to police minister Bheki Cele’s parliamentary answer, stating that 27 crime intelligence officers had criminal records – seven of which were listed as serious crimes.
This was in response to a question posed by the DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard.
“Honestly speaking, crimes committed by crime intelligence officers are mostly because, if you get exposed while working undercover, you have to go through certain processes,” said Kwinika.
“For instance, they will charge you because you infiltrated a criminal group. They must go through the same process as the criminals involved.
“Remember ‘Captain KGB’ Tshabalala? He was too afraid to tell police he was in the line of duty when they arrested him, because when these people find out you were a cop the whole time, they go after your family. The minister is not obliged to say publicly what the nature of these crimes are, if they involved police work.”
Former crime intelligence officer Morris “Captain KGB” Tshabalala has been charged, convicted and accused of a slew of serious crimes in his three-decade career. While he was never charged for his alleged involvement in an OR Tambo International Airport cash heist, he was convicted of robbery and given a 10-year sentence.
“Since 2012, according to official records, only 1% out of thousands of cases reported to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), have led to a criminal prosecution,” Kwinika said.
Kohler Barnard argued, however, such criminals would not be on the SAPS record, because their identity would still be protected.
The SAPS Act stipulates an application can be made to a judge if an officer has committed a crime as part of intelligence gathering – but this can only happen after they have been charged and found guilty, said Kwinika.
Earlier this year, Cele told parliament processes were under way to remove 57 police officers from the system, who had criminal records or cases against them. In some instances, officers obtained criminal convictions while in the system.
Kohler Barnard said Cele’s answer was not enough. She wanted the exact details of those crimes, what rank those officers had and when the crimes were committed.
“A number of those crimes were traffic fines, but seven of them were serious crimes. In fact 1 449 Saps members had criminal records. They included major crimes from rape and murder, to bigamy and armed robbery, and there could be someone from that list in crime intelligence. I am really not happy with the answer.”
She said she had faith that the new crime intelligence head, Major General Peter Jacobs, would tackle the issues facing the unit, including the alleged influence of Zuma-era strongmen.