On Wednesday it was reported that a pair of whistleblowers in the Sandiso Magaqa murder case might have been exposed to possible assassination because of negligence by the SA Police Service.
The damning allegations, which also engulf Police Minister Bheki Cele, are contained in a report from the office of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, which has not yet been made public.
Cele has now released a statement responding to the leaked report.
The minister says he has received the report, noting it looks into allegations of “undue delay and gross negligence which could have resulted in loss of lives, maladministration and improper conduct by the minister of police and the South African Police Service”.
“It is worth noting that the report has not been made public however it is strange enough that it has been leaked,” the statement reads, further saying Cele “finds this leakage not being consistent with the integrity of the office of the public protector in handling such matters (sic)”.
The minister says he has “serious reservations” about the report’s findings as well as the remedial action proposed.
The statement continues to state Cele “instructed the SAPS management, to internally and procedurally work on the report for the purposes of launching an application for a judiciary review of the report”.
The police ministry says the report will have “dire consequences” for if left unchallenged.
The report, leaked on Wednesday, says: “The failure by the minister of police and the SAPS to provide security protection for Messrs Stuta and Zulu exposes them to the risk of being assassinated.”
“It also exposes the SAPS and the South African government to a risk of unnecessary legal claims and financial losses as their families could decide to claim against the government for damages for the loss of lives should they be assassinated.”
Thabiso Zulu, an ANC member, anti-corruption activist and friend of Magaqa, and Les Stuta, an official at Harry Gwala Local Municipality, were responsible for blowing the lid on the alleged reasons behind the assassination of Magaqa – a former ANC Youth League secretary-general and PR councillor at uMzimkhulu Municipality at the time of his death.
Magaqa was shot, along with colleagues Nontsikelelo Mafa and Jabu Msiya, in the uMzimkhulu area in July 2017, but only died in September 2017 due to “complications from multiple gunshot wounds”. Mafa and Msiya both survived.
Since Zulu and Stuta first made public the allegations of corruption at Magaqa’s funeral, they have had to contend with multiple death threats.
After approaching the police for assistance and being pushed from pillar to post, Zulu eventually approached the public protector.
Mkhwebane wrote to the former minister of police Fikile Mbalula, and then State Security Agency (SSA) minister Bongani Bongo, in mid-November 2017, asking them to conduct threat assessments on the whistleblowers.
Both ministers responded within a week, saying the assessments would be undertaken. The SAPS eventually assessed Zulu and Stuta in mid-December, but according to her report, Mkhwebane had still not received the assessment.
By this time, both men continued to receive death threats, and were checking their movements. Both also believed their calls were being monitored. Zulu took to moving between different locations in the province.
The SSA assessment, which found they needed urgent protection, only took place in April 2018.
“The minister of police and the SAPS’ conduct in dealing with my request to provide protection to the two whistle-blowers can only be described as grossly negligent, and a slap in the face to the very people that members of the SAPS are employed to protect.”
The conduct by the minister and the police constituted improper conduct “and undue delay, gross negligence and maladministration”, said the report.
Appropriate remedial action, according to Mkhwebane, would entail President Cyril Ramaphosa “reprimanding” Cele “for his lapses in judgment” regarding SAPS failing to provide protection for Zulu and Stuta “after a determination was made that they needed it”.