The past month has not been a good one for the Mpumalanga police’s reputation as upholders of the law.
Since early June, at least six police members – two of them very senior – have appeared in court on charges ranging from fraud, corruption, theft and assault to defeating the ends of justice.
* Piet Retief detective Warrant Officer Mike Mkhonza (42) was arrested on June 8 for allegedly assaulting a colleague.
It is alleged that he tried to force police officers who had arrested his daughter for driving without a license to only give her a warning. When they refused, Mkhonza got angry and allegedly assaulted a constable.
After a case of defeating the ends of justice was opened against him, the police obtained a warrant to search his house, where they discovered two balaclavas, four live rounds of ammunition for a .38 special revolver, two spent cartridges and three police-issued gun magazines instead of the prescribed two. He was also found in possession of 29 live rounds of police ammunition.
Mkhonza is out on warning and will appear in court again on July 27.
* Colonel Kevin James (45), acting head of legal services in the province, was arrested on June 17 after he allegedly tried to steal a packet of meat from Pick ‘n Pay in Nelspruit.
After his arrest, James was released on warning and his case was referred to the public prosecutor for a decision on whether he should be prosecuted. He is due back in court on July 27.
Meanwhile, he has been suspended pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
* The provincial chief of crime intelligence, Dan Maropeng, was arrested on a charge of drunk driving near Kabokweni on June 19. He was due to appear in court in Nelspruit this week, but the provincial police claim not to know anything about the outcome of his case. Maropeng’s suspension would be up to national police commissioner General Bheki Cele, according to Mpumalanga police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi.
* Detective Constable Reagan Mkhatshwa (27), a detective from White River Police Station, was arrested on June 19 on charges of fraud, corruption and possession of a stolen firearm in a card-cloning case that involves millions of rand.
He is out on R5 000 bail and will appear again in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on August 13.
* Warrant Officer Skimmy Victor Motubatse (44) was arrested on July 2 on charges of corruption after he allegedly tried to elicit a R3 000 bribe from a woman who he had arrested for cigarette smuggling. She said he had taken her ID and passport as security and instructed her to sell the cigarettes and return with R3 000.
Motubatse appeared in the Kabokweni Magistrate’s Court on the same day. He was released on warning and will appear again on July 23.
* Detective Constable Oscar Ngwenya (30) appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court on Monday on charges of defeating the ends of justice after he allegedly took an R800 bribe from a suspect to withdraw a case of assault in December 2008. He is out on R1 000 bail and will appear again on July 28.
According to Hlathi, provincial police commissioner Thulani Ntobela had called on the police in the province to behave in a manner “acceptable to society”.
“On the same note, he stressed the point that the uniform of any police official who collude with criminals or commit crimes will be changed from blue to orange.”
His words echoed that of Cele in May when he said: “This province (Mpumalanga) is horrible when it comes to corrupt police officers. The organised crime unit in this province fight each other because they want to steal exhibits for themselves. One day you arrest people with 13 bags of dagga, the next day you find only three. I am calling on the communities to assist the government by exposing corrupt officers. If they do not like the beautiful blue uniform, we do not mind to give them an orange one.”
Cele was speaking at the funeral service of two policemen and one reservist who had died on duty.