Khomotso Phahlane. Picture: THE TIMES
Khomotso Phahlane. Picture: THE TIMES

Police watchdog Ipid has hit out at Police Minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Khehla Sithole over the state’s continued funding of former police chief Khomotso Phahlane’s court battle with Ipid.

Cele and Sithole are not fighting the Independent Police Investigative Directorate’s court application for an order that Ipid hopes will stop police implicated in criminality from driving criminal cases against the Ipid officials investigating them.

But by allowing the state to fund Phahlane’s opposition to Ipid’s case, police leadership is enabling a subordinate to take a position in opposition to the official position, Ipid says.

Ipid’s court case was born out of the ugly legal drama that erupted between Phahlane and Ipid, after Ipid launched a high-profile corruption investigation into the police chief.

Ipid and its head, Robert McBride, have accused Phahlane and his alleged allies in the North West police department of driving criminal cases against the investigators on his case.

In a letter sent to Sithole, following a meeting with Cele where a possible out-of-court settlement of the case was discussed, Ipid’s legal advisers questioned why police leadership were allowing Phahlane and North West police officials to oppose their case.

"It is, with respect, untenable for you to allow your subordinates to adopt a position in litigation against Ipid (and relating to the relationship between SAPS and Ipid) that is at odds with and in defiance of the position adopted by you," Ipid’s chief director of legal services, Marianna Moroasui, wrote to Sithole.

"It is within your powers and obligations to bring to an end to the pending litigation, and to instruct (Phahlane and the North West police authorities) to accept the position you have adopted in relation to the litigation.

"Alarmingly, the SAPS is continuing to fund, with public funds, the opposition of the litigation by (Phahlane and his alleged allies).

"It is completely outrageous for the SAPS to fund litigation by members of the SAPS in circumstances where the position adopted by these members are directly contrary to that of the national commissioner.

"It is of great concern that an amicable settlement of the litigation between Ipid and SAPS should be frustrated by the conduct of those who are under your direct control and supervision."

In the letter, dated May 23 this year, Moroasui says Ipid does not believe Sithole "can justifiably remain supine whilst your subordinates abuse public funds".

Ipid’s lawyers wrote two more letters to Sithole in the weeks following Moroasui’s correspondence, in which various unsuccessful efforts to settle the case were documented. Ipid’s lawyers repeatedly stated that they wished to resolve the case amicably.

Business Day has sought comment from both Cele and Sithole about the apparent contradictions in the police’s stance on Ipid’s litigation, without success.

Ipid and McBride want the North Gauteng High Court to order that "it is unlawful and/or unconstitutional for any member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to undertake or oversee an investigation into a member of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) where the SAPS member has a personal interest in such an investigation, or is himself or herself the subject of an Ipid investigation".

The case will be argued in court on Thursday.