Cape Town's SSIU a law until itself - Brett Herron
Brett Herron |
06 January 2022
GOOD SG has asked Minister Bheki Cele and SAPS head Khehla Sithole to investigate unit
CITY OF CAPE TOWN’S “PRIVATE” POLICE/INTELLIGENCE STRUCTURE IS A LAW UNTO ITSELF
GOOD ASKS POLICE MINISTER TO IMPLEMENT INVESTIGATION UNDER THE POLICE ACT
The GOOD Party has asked National Police Minister Bheki Cele and Commissioner General Khehla Sithole to investigate the legality of a City of Cape Town policing/intelligence structure that operates outside the parameters of the Police Act and, unlike the Municipal Police Service, is not subject to provincial oversight.
While the term “Rogue Unit” is politically loaded, there is arguably no better description for Cape Town’s “SSIU”, previously known as the “SIU”.
The structure appears to be modelled on the national Special Investigations Unit (SIU). The SIU reports directly to the President, who is constitutionally empowered to proclaim investigations. In the Cape Town version, the President’s role is performed by Mayco Member JP Smith.
There is no constitutional provision for special investigations units reporting to city councillors.
The Cape Town structure now known as the Safety and Security Investigation Unit (SSIU) is headed by “Chief: Specialised Investigation” Reynold Talmakkies.
Cape Town appointed Talmakkies to this position despite his pending prosecution for tampering with police dockets in Mpumalanga, in his previous job, when he was a member of the South African Police. In December, Talmakkies’ legal problems mounted when he was arrested on a new set of charges: Alleged fraud and corruption relating to a City of Cape Town housing tender.
According to the City’s Law Enforcement Advancement Plan, the “SSIU will focus on shadow investigation of criminal cases” and “be responsible for information and intelligence gathering”.
The unit appears to report only to Mayco Member JP Smith, without any oversight or accountability constraints. Despite the province’s Safety Plan including funding for 150 investigators appointed by the City, MEC for Community Safety, Albert Fritz, recently confirmed in a response to a question I posed in parliament that he has no powers of oversight over the SIU because “the SIU does not fall under the Municipal Police Service”.
Section 64M of the Police Act empowers the national Minister of Police to intervene, particularly where a Provincial MEC has failed to do so. The Minister’s powers include placing the Municipal Police services under the control of an administrator.
The GOOD Party has asked Minister Cele to implement an investigation in terms of the Act.
Cape Town’s SIU, now the SSIU, has a history of controversy. In the run up to the 2016 local government elections, Smith submitted a report to then-DA Chairperson James Selfe containing an intelligence report on every 2016 DA councillor candidate. In the report Smith informs Selfe that 42 candidates on the DA’s list have criminal records. Smith initially said the information came from a “concerned party”, but when allegations surfaced that he had abused his SIU to investigate political opponents within the DA he claimed the information had come from SAPS.
In September 2017 it emerged that the SIU was conducting murder and attempted murder investigations, including the murder of DA Councillor Xolile Gwangxu who was shot dead in Philippi East that June.
Smith was quoted saying, “According to SIU members their investigation had turned up rumours of the possible involvement of councillors in the death of Cllr Gwangxu, but that nothing had been proven”.
When the then-Mayor Patricia de Lille learned that the SIU was conducting criminal investigations, and apparently liaising directly with Interpol, she ordered the closure of the unit on the basis that it was acting outside of the City’s policing mandate and unlawfully.
After her resignation, in December 2018, Smith announced the reinstatement of the SSIU as among the year’s notable achievements.
The City has gone to great lengths to disguise what the SIU actually is. If it is a unit conducting lawful criminal investigations then it should be part of the Metro Police which is subject to the MEC’s oversight as provided for in the Police Act.
In a October 2021 document called “Progress Report to Residents” the City’s Mayco and Executive Management Team said: “The Safety and Security Investigations Unit (SSIU) works to improve the criminal justice outcomes resulting from work done by enforcement agencies through, for instance, watching briefs, which seek to ensure higher conviction rates for firearm and drug arrests.”
It sounds legitimate to support the fight against crime. But what is not legitimate is a covert, politicised, policing/intelligence unit answerable solely to a City Councillor.
If the SIU has a legitimate purpose then there is no reason for it to be operating outside of the Metro Police, immune from oversight.
A rogue unit operating outside of the law and immune from scrutiny does not help our fight against crime – less so, one headed by a man facing serious criminal charges in two provinces.
Minister Cele must step in urgently, since the Provincial Government will not.
Statement issued by Brett Herron, GOOD: Secretary-General, 6 January 2022