Phahlane rejects theories about burglary at chief justice’s office
Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane on Monday brushed aside conspiracy theories about the theft of computers containing sensitive personal information from the office of the chief justice.
Fifteen computers‚ some containing sensitive information about the country’s 250 judges‚ were stolen from the human resources section of the office in Midrand‚ Johannesburg‚ on Saturday.
Phahlane‚ speaking on Talk Radio 702 said police would ignore baseless‚ unfounded allegations about the burglary and focus on establishing who had entered the offices‚ what they knew about the security system and what was taken.
"Our [mandate] is not to focus on rumours‚ ours is to investigate a crime‚" he said.
Opposition political parties and the Council for the Advancement for the South African Constitution (Casac) said the burglary was highly suspicious‚ likening it to the Watergate scandal‚ which led to the fall of US president Richard Nixon.
Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said: "This incident may mark a crucial turning point in our constitutional democracy. It is a potential ‘Watergate moment’‚ in which the independence of the judiciary is not just undermined but brazenly challenged. We must act to guard its independence which is key to ensuring our democracy is protected and sustained."
The Watergate scandal‚ which unfolded in the 1970s‚ saw burglars break into the Democratic national committee headquarters. Their arrest exposed a political dirty tricks campaign.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen tweeted that his money was on State Security Minister David Mahlobo having a hand in the matter — which was quickly shot down as a wild allegation by the ANC.
Casac said it was imperative that the investigation was speedy‚ thorough and free of political interference.
"Given the doubts and uncertainties over the independence and integrity of the South African Police Service and the Hawks‚ it will be necessary to have independent oversight over this investigation.
"An appropriate mechanism to ensure that there is public confidence in the investigation must be put in place‚" said Casac.
The State Security Agency has rejected claims about its involvement in the burglary.
"We note with serious concern the baseless accusations made by some insinuating our involvement in #ChiefJusticeOfficeBreakin‚" it said in a series of tweets.