“Gaan moer hulle!” With those words, the Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula, sent off the Springbok squad to contest the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The watching crowd roared their approval. The players beamed. The minister’s embrace of the vernacular unquestionably helped to unite South Africans.
Years later, Major-General Jeremy Vearey posted those words on his Facebook page in a comment on a labour dispute that the SAPS commissioner, Khehla Sitole, was conducting against Vearey’s colleague, Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs.
Two senior officers, Lieutenant-Generals Ledwaba and Vuma – whom Sitole had relied on to deal with Jacobs – claimed that Vearey’s words “made them feel intimidated, threatened, and unsafe”.
Humbug! How can South Africans feel safe in the hands of the SAPS if the heads of the service that is constitutionally charged with protecting and securing us are cowed by seeing our lingua franca on a Facebook page? No reasonable person could ever believe Ledwaba and Vuma. But Lieutenant-General LE Ntshinga claimed to do so. She is the official whom Sitole appointed to determine whether Vearey had committed misconduct.
She and Sitole agreed that a special expedited inquiry – usually reserved to resolve cases of treason, terrorism and rape by SAPS members – was necessary in the circumstances. In terms thereof, Vearey was denied the rights to cross-examine these lying witnesses, lead his own evidence; or to challenge the translation (to F … you!) put on the (different) expression he had actually employed, and the denial of these rights to a fair hearing.
In a single honest moment, Ntshinga admitted that there was “no impartial chairperson to rule on these issues”, should they be raised.
This farce brings the SAPS and Sithole into disrepute. However, it is Vearey who was found to have done that. Sitole fired him.
Ntshinga had concluded that the words “moer hulle” could cause the situation within the SAPS to become toxic and chaotic. She was oblivious to the toxic and chaotic environment that already existed within the SAPS due to the vendetta conducted by an ethnophobic and tribalist cabal of senior officials, linked with corruption, against Camissa Africans such as Vearey, Jacobs, Andre Lincoln, Anwa Dramat and Gary Kruser.
Ntshinga also concluded that Vearey’s acts could inspire others within and outside the SAPS to rise and resist the authority of Sitole and his leadership clique.
But that process was already under way, and for good cause. Police Minister Bheki Cele had called on President Cyril Ramaphosa for an inquiry into Sitole’s fitness to hold office.
Vearey’s Facebook posts consisted of little more than media reports, which were already in the public domain. Like the reports, the posts depicted images of Sitole and Jacobs and contained the substance of their legal dispute. Vearey’s captions added nothing other than an indication that he sided with Jacobs.
His posts served the public interest to receive information and were in the interest of the SAPS. The circumstances did not justify any limitation on his right to impart information and an opinion.
Ntshinga found that Vearey aimed to make Sitole a laughing stock. But the commissioner did that to himself. He was a Jacob Zuma appointee.
He attended a meeting where a plan was allegedly hatched for Crime Intelligence to procure a surveillance device costing R7 million for R45m, and to launder the excess public funds to swing votes at the Nasrec conference. Vuma also attended. Sitole and Vuma then covered up information about this meeting, under the pretence of national security, to prevent its investigation.
Sitole’s spat with Jacobs, which precipitated Vearey’s posts, arose after Jacobs charged senior Crime Intelligence officials with looting the Secret Services Account. Join the dots.
Vearey must be reinstated. During 2016, a racist and corrupt clique within the SAPS, spearheaded by acting commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, began a vendetta against him. Phahlane and his henchwoman, Bonang Mgwenya, were rightly fired for dishonesty. Their successors will do no better if we unite behind Vearey and “moer hulle”.
* Michael Donen SC is a legal practitioner and listed counsel of the International Criminal Court.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.