By Kwazi Dlamini
Embattled South African Police Service (Saps) whistle-blower Patricia Mashale continues her fight against the agency and has taken the matter to Parliament, petitioning the legislature for protection.
Mashale made several claims of corruption within the Saps top brass, including police minister Bheki Cele. Some of the allegations include irregular appointments of senior officials, hiring officials without proper immigration papers and procurement irregularities.
Her allegations against SAPS made social media trends for the most part of 2022. Through her social media posts, Mashale revealed that she feared for her life, while Cele did not take her allegations seriously and refused to offer protection. Attempting to get her story out there, Mashale started sharing the information she had on social media.
When informally asked, Cele refuted the allegations or any knowledge of Mashale – but to prove that she had been in contact with him, she publicly shared the minister’s personal cell phone number.
Petition to Parliament
Mashale created a public petition for protection which garnered more than 30 000 signatures of support. The parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police, however, said that a public petition was not a petition to Parliament and advised Mashale to submit her petition directly to them. They also requested a copy of the documentation from Cele. Mashale was then several opportunities to submit her petition to the Speaker of Parliament or to the committee but failed to do so.
During a committee discussion in November 2022 about her petition, to which she was invited, Mashale insisted that she had indeed sent the petition as advised. The committee responded that they were unable to access it and Mashale sent the document again – but again was informed that access was impossible as Parliament did not have the right software.
The committee advised Mashale to send the petition in the correct format as Parliament has strict guidelines on submissions made to it and was still awaiting the petition in the correct format, as well as other documents supporting the whistle-blower’s allegations. Mashale assured the committee that she would submit the documents but it might take time as she is currently in hiding and has limited resources.
Committee content advisor Nicolette Van Zyl-Gous showed the committee a letter sent to Mashale and her representative Mary De Haas, a political rights activists, in March 2022. The letter stated exactly what was required from the two. De Haas said that she had received the letter, but had forgotten about it. She added that she and Mashale would do the petition if they needed to.
Victimised for blowing the whistle
The Saps employed Mashale as an administration clerk from August 2007. She had made two protected disclosures exposing corruption before being fired for misconduct in February 2022, accused of bringing the police into disrepute after calling for the removal of leaders in the provincial police department. She persisted with her case, which prompted the Independent Police Investigative Directorate to look into some of the allegations and later the portfolio committee wanted answers on the status of the investigation.
Mashale alleged that the contract extension of Lieutenant-General (Lt-General) Baile Motswenyane as provincial commissioner in the Free State was irregular. However, the investigation found no irregularities with the contract extension – on the contrary, it followed all the relevant prescripts of the Constitution and this included consultation with the Free State premier.
Mashale also alleged that the Free State’s head of crime intelligence, General Agnes Makhele, was giving out fake security clearances to top Saps members, but Saps denied knowledge if this.
Makhele is currently on suspension after she was arrested together with former acting national commissioner General Khomotso Phahlane in relation to R54-million fraud charges.
Through social media, Mashale further alleged that the acting Free State commissioner, Major-General Solly Lesia, is a Lesotho national who illegally obtained his South African citizenship papers. Mashale reported that Lesia persecuted her for raising her concerns on his nationality.
Saps again said it was unaware of any persecution towards Mashale, but did not answer the concerns about Lesia’s citizenship status.
Lesia went on to obtain a final protection order against Mashale because of the allegations she posted on social media.
Another allegation is that top Saps officials are selling amnesty firearms to gangs – this issue is still under investigation by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.
Turbulent relationship with the police
In its presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Police, the Saps said that Mashale had a bone to pick with it because of her dismissal. According to information revealed in the presentation, Mashale participated in an unprotected strike action while she was reportedly sick at home and furthermore, during the march, she read out a memorandum in which she insulted the provincial commissioner and other senior Saps managers.
For this she was charged with misconduct and bringing the service into disrepute. During her disciplinary hearing Mashale walked out with her union representative. She was later discharged.
Saps also refuted claims that Mashale’s personal documents were destroyed, saying the allegations are unfounded because the documents are in fact still stored in the office.
In 2009, allegations emerged that Mashale had failed to disclose her dishonourable discharge from the Department of Health where she was previously employed, and was irregularly employed in the Saps to boot. The disciplinary hearing for this matter could not be finalised because it failed to finish within the prescribed timeframe.
Saps revealed a string of other charges against Mashale, many of them emanating from her allegations against Lesia. The charges include violation of protection order, perjury, and criminal defamation.
National commissioner intervenes
In March 2022, national commissioner Lt-General Fannie Masemola appointed Lt-General Sello Kwena to investigate Mashale’s complaints. Saps said that when Kwena arrived in Bloemfontein Mashale refused to engage with him for unspecified reasons.
Masemola appointed Lt-General Semakaleng Manamela in July 2022 to take over from Kwena and again showed resistance to co-operating with the investigation. Mashale made certain demands as a condition for proceeding – including meeting at Manamela’s residence, which Manamela refused.
The national commissioner communicated to Mashale, via an official letter, that as she was not willing to engage with them, the file would be closed.
The portfolio committee asked whether Mashale’s refusal to co-operate might have anything to do with the lack of Saps protection – but was informed that Saps had afforded Mashale the opportunity to be classified as a whistle-blower under the Protected Disclosure Act. Unfortunately the Safety and Security Bargaining Council did not receive the motivation from Mashale or her legal representative.
Saps concluded its presentation with a claim that Mashale is part of a group driving a smear campaign against the service and its management by spreading false, defamatory, and unsubstantiated allegations on social media.