Instead of suspending a high-ranking police officer who is under investigation for fraud, the police wanted to send her on a trip to France.
The Portfolio Committee on Police on Wednesday took a dim view when acting head of crime intelligence Major General King Bhoyi Ngcobo – who has been described in the press as President Jacob Zuma’s chief bodyguard – confirmed that Brigadier Leonora Bamuza-Phetlhe was to travel to France on November 19.
Bamuza-Phetlhe is accused of fabricating security clearance for the former acting head of crime intelligence, Major General Pat Mokushane, who was removed from the post in August.
She is also being investigated for a suspicious payment of R50 000 into her bank account.
MPs asked Ngcobo about the situation and he responded that there were disciplinary and criminal investigations into the officer.
He added that he was waiting for a report and said he would act once he received it.
“The acting national commissioner [Lesetja Mothiba] gave me instructions that I needed to follow,” Ngcobo said.
He explained that another officer had been nominated for the trip. However, the officer did not have an official passport.
“The next available person is [Bamuza-Phetlhe],” he added.
Committee chairperson Francois Beukman said: “That can’t be correct, what we’re hearing now, in terms of good governance.”
Mothiba confirmed that it was correct that Bamuza-Phetlhe had been nominated to go on the trip and added that he wanted to raise the matter with Ngocbo before the committee meeting.
He said the original officer nominated to go on the trip would be assisted to obtain an official passport, which could be done within 48 hours.
But this did little to appease the committee.
‘A hidden hand’
ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane added that, since the last meeting with the police on the matter, the status quo has been maintained.
“It happens like that only if you don’t take us seriously,” he said.
He said he would not accept that police management “rides roughshod” over Parliament.
“[Bamuza-] Phetlhe is too powerful,” said Molebatsi. “She even controls her seniors. She is untouchable. Why is she feared?”
DA MP Zakhele Mbhele said the Bamuza-Phetlhe matter was the “epitome of a complete lack of accountability”.
“Frankly, I’m at a loss,” he added.
He suggested that the matter urgently be referred to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and described crime intelligence as “clearly the most deeply captured environment” in the police.
“Clearly, a hidden hand is at play here,” Mbhele said.
‘Dancing around it like it is a party’
Mothiba said a criminal docket of fraud has been opened against Bamuza-Phetlhe, which can be handed over to the National Director of Public Prosecutions at any moment.
He said Ngcobo served her with a notice of an intention to suspend, to which she responded and that Ngcobo decided not to suspend her.
He added that it seems Ngcobo was not aware of the issue of the R50 000.
“But, General Mothiba,” said Beukman, “You are the accounting officer. You had the information.”
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Mmola said: “This Brigadier Phetlhe is so special. We don’t know why, but we’re going to dig.”
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard said she was stunned that Ngcobo didn’t know about the R50 000.
“What does this woman have on someone in this division?” she asked.
“The committee has given you an instruction, and you’re dancing around it like it is a party.”
The meeting will be reconvened next Wednesday.
Beukman expects a full written report on the matter and the committee will decide on a way forward.