While embarrassed police are trying to work out who broke into the office of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks), some sources who could help with information may have to do it under the table.
A directive signed off by former Hawks head Lieutenant-General Mthandazo “Berning” Ntlemeza warns that SA Police Service or Hawks members who assist private investigators risk “criminal, as well as disciplinary action taken against them”, which may get in the way of police using every available resource.
The memo was sent to divisional commissioners, provincial commissioners and heads, component and section heads, deputy national commissioners and even the then acting national commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, and recently brought to the attention of the private investigation industry.
“Officials are hereby sensitised that this type of conduct constitutes fraud, theft, unauthorised usage of state resources and … corruption as contemplated under Chapter 2 of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act,” Ntlemeza wrote.
It’s uncertain how Ntlemeza arrived at his definition of a legitimate interaction between a registered private investigator and an official, as the quoted section deals with bribery of a police official in exchange for information.
Private investigators are required by law to be registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority after a strict vetting process in terms of Act 56 of 2001, said Chad Thomas of IRS Forensic Investigations.
“Failure to be registered constitutes a criminal offence.”
Thomas said it was frustrating not receiving cooperation from certain police members.
“Independent investigation organisations and Saps should share a symbiotic relationship when it comes to the sharing of information. Many whistleblowers are wary of approaching state law enforcement agencies and prefer to approach independent organisations with information about fraud and corruption.
“It is imperative in the fight against crime that all responsible and registered investigators work together.”
Thomas said he had a generally good relationship with state law enforcement agencies.
“However, some Saps stations, units and members have advised us that they cannot cooperate with us due to a supposed standing order preventing cooperation with private investigators.
“We have never had sight of this instruction and have not been afforded the correct forum to address this,” said Thomas.
Police have failed to respond to repeated e-mails requesting information and a response.
Private investigator Paul O’Sullivan said: “Section 70 of the Police Services Act makes it an offence for a police official to divulge private information, so the thing must be done very carefully, or it can prejudice an otherwise good prosecution.
“Unfortunately, private investigators have a reputation for ‘buying’ information from cops, or paying cops to push investigations in a certain direction, which is not only unethical, but a criminal offence.” – firstname.lastname@example.org