How Minister Cele is endangering my life – Prof Mary de Haas…

By Chris Steyn

That is the heading of a letter written to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police as well as the Speaker by veteran police- and violence monitor Professor Mary de Haas.

She charges that the Minister, “a populist politician who has many followers in the police, is deliberately whipping them up against me, with potentially dangerous consequences for me”.

She tells Parliament that Cele “is also known to have dangerous friends, including in the taxi mafia industry in KZN, which is the main home of hitmen”.

In her letter, Professor De Haas states: 

I am putting on record, publicly with Parliament, that I believe that if what I am told by police members is correct, (Police) Minister (Bheki) Cele is endangering my personal safety.

“Several weeks ago, there were media reports that Minister Cele had been telling police members that they should not give information to the media and ‘academics’ (some thought he was referring to me because I speak out about SAPS corruption and misconduct and am known to have many police contacts).  However, I have now been told by a source I know to be credible that the minister has told police members that I, Mary de Haas, am out to ‘destroy’ him. Whatever he means by that, it is inflammatory rhetoric.” 

Professor De Haas reminds Parliament that she had been monitoring and researching policing for over 30 years, “during which time I have consistently stood up for the rights of good police members (starting with the late Frank Dutton after the disbandment of his unit following Trust Feed),  and even managed to raise funding for legal assistance for many maliciously charged police members who were doing excellent investigative work, in the 1990s and early 2000s”.   

She points out that her work continues to the present time “although I have not been able to access any funding for my own work, let alone legal services, for many years”. 

Profesor De Haas notes that she also needs to interact with police on a regular basis, “in the interests of trying to prevent crime (e.g. requesting patrols in vulnerable areas) and assisting victims of crimes – including torture and shooting dead by police members – in their quest for justice (which has become increasingly difficult to obtain since the advent of State Capture)”. 

And she describes how, through her work with individuals, communities, and police members, she hears about “systemic police corruption, which risks the lives of good police members themselves”.

She adds that reports on police brutality and corruption are made to designated State agencies, especially IPID (The Independent Police Investigative Directorate) and SAPS management.   

However, she points out that “having done this work for so long it has become obvious to me how, since around 2009, levels of accountability and transparency – demanded by the Constitution – hardly exist now”.

Professor De Haas details how she has tried to get Parliament to demand this accountability from Executive members in terms of its Constitutional oversight role, “as your Committee knows”.  

“I am attaching a summary of my approaches and requests to your committee over the past five years which, given the lack of feedback I have had on specific requests I made to you (as summarized in the attachment) have been largely in vain.  The lives of corruption fighters Patricia Mashale (who also stands for the rights of police members) and Thabiso Zulu (whose anti-corruption work is ongoing) remain in great danger, causing them to remain in hiding and watch their own movements very closely, despite all my interventions to your committee.  SAPS Crime Intelligence has lurched from bad (in July 2021) to worse (in 2023) and the crisis I have drawn to your attention – most recently in my 27 October 2023 communication – remains, with deep divisions between professional intelligence staff and those who are, to put it bluntly, taking political instructions to serve party ends. Nor, it seems, has any constructive action been taken by your committee to stop this grossly irregular (in terms of legislation, including the SAPS Act), and sinister, control by the Minister of a political killings team, which from some cases I have followed closely, probably exists to cover for favoured politicians implicated in criminal activities.”

As for the Police Minister’s attitude towards her, she writes:It seems that Minister Cele takes exception to my exposing the fact that his conduct is unconstitutional and illegal. Nevertheless, it appears to be tolerated by Parliament and the President. He (and many other politicians) is in breach of his oath to defend the Constitution.  He is thus trying to deflect attention by attacking the messenger who is telling people about his illegal actions, and reminding them that he was dismissed in disgrace as police commissioner, but continues to usurp that position itself while the President and Parliament allows him to do so.

I have had my share of threats and harassment over the past thirty years, and I was told by a very senior police member in the latter 1990s that all my telephone lines were intercepted.  Given my unpopularity with the government I have no doubt that my communications continue to be intercepted and, wherever possible, my movements monitored – which, of course, also puts me in danger.   Now the Minister, a populist politician who has many followers in the police, is deliberately whipping them up against me, with potentially dangerous consequences for me.  His allies in the police include apartheid era police and agents, some of whom used state funds to order the assassination of Sindiso Magaqa.  Some CIS members have been implicated in the attempt to kill Thabiso Zulu (who Cele has refused to protect). Others have been used, at Cele’s direction, to try and track down Patricia Mashale.  Cele is also known to have dangerous friends, including in the taxi mafia industry in KZN, which is the main home of hitmen.  This is the environment in which I live and move around.

So, I am putting all of this on record to Parliament, and the public, as I want Minister Cele held accountable for further endangering his life by his reported inflammatory utterances.   I hope you will hold him to account – but I am not, as the saying goes, ‘holding my breath’ that you will.”

BizNews has asked the Police Portfolio Committee and Minister Cele’s office for comment. 

Meanwhile, here is the PDF of : AN OVERVIEW OF MATTERS I HAVE ASKED THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE TO HOLD THE MINISTER ACCOUNTABLE FOR 2018-2023” Professor De Haas attached to her letter.

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