Did the National Police Commissioner mislead SCOPA?

Issued by Benedicta van Minnen MP – DA Member on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
12 Sep 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Benedicta van Minnen MP.

The DA takes note of a letter from Brig Jap Burger, the officer appointed by the National Commissioner in August 2022 to address high-level and organised crime threats impacting Eskom and energy security.

The letter outlines a series of events that raise questions about the accuracy of the National Commissioner Fannie Masemola’s statements to SCOPA on the 7th of June 2023 and was directed to several authoritative bodies that include the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Joint Committee on Ethics, and the Office of The Registrar of Members’ Interests.

Burger states that on June 4, 2023, Commissioner Masemola informed him of SCOPA’s request for his presence at a Committee meeting on June 7, 2023. Following this notification, Burger met with the Commissioner on June 5 to express his reservations about attending the meeting. His concerns included:

  • SCOPA’s public exposure mandate doesn’t cover criminal investigations into organized crime and corruption.
  • Sections 198 and 199 of the Constitution stipulate:
  • National security must adhere to the law, including international law.
  • Security service members must not obey clearly illegal orders.
  • Security services cannot favour or prejudice any political party’s legitimate interests.
  • Multiparty parliamentary committees must oversee all security services, ensuring transparency and accountability.
  • Eskom, being a National Key Point and part of South Africa’s critical infrastructure, demands security competence to prevent classified information from being accessed unauthorizedly, which could jeopardise national security. Publicly disclosing investigation processes can violate national security.
    • Oversight of Eskom’s national security matters is mainly the responsibility of specific parliamentary committees, not SCOPA. The concerns raised in SCOPA have not been referred to these committees, which are equipped to handle such sensitive issues.
    • Investigations into national security-related criminal activities are classified and should remain closed to public and political scrutiny until court presentation.
  • Handling national security matters necessitates protecting the personal safety of all involved, including investigators and whistleblowers, by minimising undue exposure.

However, during the SCOPA meeting on the 7th of June, Commissioner Masemola reported being unable to locate Brig Burger. His statement appears to contradict the account given in Brig Burger’s letter.

If Brig Burger’s account is accurate, it suggests that the Commissioner may have presented an incorrect version of events to Parliament. This is a very serious matter. Making erroneous statements when submitting information to Parliament is a statutory offence under the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities Act, and impeding Parliament from exercising its functions and authority is an offence which is punishable by fine or imprisonment of up to three years.

Given these concerns, it is incumbent on Commissioner Masemola to clarify whether the meeting with Brig Burger took place. We are seeking legal opinion to ascertain whether the Police Commissioner misled the committee during the briefing. If it is verified that the meeting occurred and that the Commissioner did in fact mislead SCOPA, the Commissioner must step down from his role, as holding office while having committed an offence is not acceptable.

As a critical National Key Point, which is under attack, the security of Eskom must be prioritised. This cannot be done when its protectors are seen to be acting in bad faith. The DA is committed to pursuing clarity and accountability in this matter to uphold the integrity of our national institutions.