Former acting national police commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane says he agreed to ‘step aside’ from his position with immediate effect after constructive engagement with Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.
This was revealed in a statement released on Thursday night, a few hours after President Jacob Zuma had made an announcement that Phahlane’s acting tenure had come to an end. Zuma appointed Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba as Phahlane’s replacement in the acting position.
“Today I had a constructive engagement with the Minister of Police Mr Fikile Mbalula in Cape Town. During this engagement I agreed to step aside as the Acting National Commissioner of the South African Police Service with immediate effect.”
He congratulated Mothiba on the appointment and described him as a seasoned, experienced police officer.
“I have no doubt that he will lead the SAPS with integrity and vigour,” he said.
Phahlane would use the extra time on his hands to focus on the allegations levelled against him by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).
Phahlane was appointed acting commissioner in October 2015, following Riah Phiyega’s suspension. He was previously divisional commissioner for forensic services.
Phahlane’s tense relationship with the IPID revealed itself recently when both parties were invited make presentations to Parliament’s police committee last month.
During the sitting, IPID head Robert McBride told MPs that Phahlane should be suspended or be placed on leave to prevent him interfering in IPID probes.
This came after North West detectives facing allegations of torture charged the two officers investigating Phahlane for corruption and money laundering, with alleged crimes including fraud, extortion, and contravening the IPID Act.
McBride accused Phahlane and another officer of intimidating IPID investigators looking into cases against Phahlane and other SAPS officers.
Phahlane maintained his innocence, saying police were merely conducting their own investigations and claimed that private investigator Paul O’Sullivan had “captured” the police watchdog.
On May 25, IPID launched an urgent application before the High Court in Pretoria for an interdict to stop police officers facing IPID probes from investigating IPID officers.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula told reporters shortly after Zuma’s announcement that Phahlane had to explain why he should not be suspended.
He was facing serious allegations which affected his fitness to hold office, Mbalula said.
Phahlane says he is still committed to serving and protecting South Africans, a job he had taken up from the age of 17.
“I remain committed to my calling…I will continue to contribute to the safety and security of the people of our country,” he said.