The Department of Community Safety will be investigating the ousting of Mitchell’s Plain Police Cluster Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson Hanif Loonat.
The police cluster includes Strandfontein, Lentegeur and Mitchell’s Plain, Athlone, Steenberg, Lansdowne, Philippi and Grassy Park police stations.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said the investigation would form part of the department’s oversight mandate for policing in the province.
In reply to a Plainsman enquiry, yesterday Tuesday January 31, Mr Plato said CPFs – at any level – played a vital role holding police accountable to those they’re meant to serve.
“It is also important that CPFs must always remain community focused, free of political interference and gate-keeping, where only the interests of a few are served.”
“Only a full investigation will be able to determine if the processes and procedures were adhered to and whether the best interests of the community have been upheld or if ulterior motives are involved,” Mr Plato said.
CPFs are statutory bodies that take their authority from the SA Police Services Act of 1995 and give communities oversight of the police. Mr Plato said his department helped CPFs fulfil that function.
“We support the CPFs as per the Western Cape Community Safety Act,” he said.
Mr Loonat held a press conference at Lentegeur police station on Monday January 30, where he said “truth and justice” needed to prevail.
“Fair play and proper procedural processes,” he said, had been “totally and deliberately neglected in order to remove me from my position”.
He claimed a cabal in the cluster, led by Western Cape Community Policing Forum provincial board chairman Andrew Lyon, had engineered his ousting.
Mr Loonat said it had been coming for some time and he implicated several SAPS officers in the “plot”.
Mr Loonat was apparently ousted at an “ordinary monthly cluster CPF meeting” on Wednesday January 25, which he claimed Mr Lyon had hijacked by going ahead with an untabled agenda that had already been caucused by most of cluster’s CPF chairpersons.
“He then tabled the letter that is now public knowledge which was a prepared letter stating the allegations against me. “Because the matter was caucused, Mr Lyon disallowed the content of the document to be discussed,” said Mr Loonat.
Nominations were called for to replace Mr Loonat and it was decided that the deputy chairperson usurp his position.
Mr Loonat said his removal contradicted the CPF’s constitution and he would be appealing it.
Mr Lyon refused to discuss what had happened at last week’s meeting saying it was confidential, and he would not defy the meeting’s decision to keep the media out.
“Firstly I will not entertain or stoop down to that level. I will decide to answer certain questions, and I need to be thick-skinned to survive allegations thrown at me,” he said.
Mr Lyon said if there had been an ousting, it would not affect the role of the CPF whose members were volunteers.
“The crux of our business is to serve the community’s safety interests and those of the police who fight crime in a professional way,” he said.
The Plainsman contacted Mitchell’s Plain CPF chairperson Abie Isaacs for comment and details on last week’s meeting.
He replied: “No comment.”
Strandfontein CPF chairperson Sandy Schuter and Lentegeur CPF chairperson Mark Brookes had failed to respond at the time of going to print.
According to the Uniform Constitution for Community Police Forums and Boards in the Western Cape’s disciplinary procedures after allegations of the chairperson of the cluster board are received, he or she should be informed by the chairperson of the provincial board.
Once the allegations are received a statutory member should be appointed to investigate the matter and make recommendations.
A statutory member refers to a member of the forum, sub-forum or board designated in terms of the Act, this can also include SAPS reservists and members of the municipal police service.
Last year, the SAPS served a notice of possible suspension on Mr Loonat – just six months after he had been elected as cluster chairman. The matter was related to intimidation charges which were withdrawn in 2015.
Also, in 2013, Mr Loonat was suspended from his position as the Western Cape CPF Board chairman by former provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer.
This came after Mr Loonat’s criticism of Athlone police station, and one of the reasons for his suspension then, stated that he had “brought the police into disrepute”.
Mr Lamoer, who retired in 2015, is meanwhile set to go on trial next month – along with five co-accused, including three police brigadiers – for corruption and racketeering.
The Uniform Constitution further reads that the purpose of the procedures is to address instances of misconduct; disciplinary steps must be taken promptly and a fair process must be followed to finalize the matter; the hearing should commence within 14 days after the appointment of the disciplinary – and the presiding official.
“The person against whom the allegations were made must be given an opportunity to reply on the allegations in writing and a fair hearing process must be followed,”reads the document.