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Leaked audio exposes move to oust JMPD chief

David Tembe wrote the notice of suspension . /Veli Nhlapo
David Tembe wrote the notice of suspension . /Veli Nhlapo
Image: Veli Nhlapo

"Show your muscle and suspend [David] Tembe today."

These are the stern orders Johannesburg MMC for public safety Mally Mokoena gave to her head of department, William Mazibuko, instructing him to immediately place Johannesburg Metro Police Department [JMPD] chief David Tembe on suspension last month in a damning audio clip that has since been leaked to the Sowetan.

The January 22 audio was recorded during a four-hour meeting with 13 officers who were expressing their grievances at the manner in which Tembe had suspended them. The audio is expected to cause trouble for Johannesburg mayor Geoff Makhubo when it is raised in the next council meeting.

Tembe, according to Mokoena in the clip, had to be suspended immediately following the meeting.

"When these meetings end you tell them all these things you say . I'm not going to disclose, I'm going to say it's an administrative matter, I've listened but the prerogative lies with the HOD. He must tell us how he feels about it and today you must suspend Tembe, today," said Mokoena.

To which Mazibuko responded: "Absolutely."

Mokoena can be heard in the clip saying she will support Mazibuko when he informs Makhubo.

"Show your muscle, you're the HOD. suspend this guy, suspend him. He must go, suspend him and then I'll tell the mayor that he has been suspended because of all these [grievances]. You must go through those things from the administration side then I'll back you," Mokoena said.

Mokoena told Sowetan that she was aware of the audio clip but said it had been deliberately tempered with to omit the rest of the conversation.

"I am aware of the recording and mischievously so. It has been tempered with to omit the structural governance challenges that confront the JMPD," she said.

"We definitely will not be deterred from enforcing accountability within the JMPD. This is necessary to ensure a functional and efficient service," Mokoena said.

Tembe said he was aware of the recording.

"It was sent to me. I'm still waiting as no one has approached me so I can't comment on it," said Tembe.

The instruction by Mokoena has been viewed as political interference and possible purging of City of Johannesburg staff hired by the previous DA administration by the newly installed ANC government,

Mokoena's predecessor former Public safety MMC Michael Sun told Sowetan that he was shocked upon learning of the audio clip and by the MMC's disregard of due process.

He said the MMC was a political head and that suspensions are supposed to be handled by the administrative head, the HOD, who also cannot suspend on the spot.

According to Sun, the process leading to suspension of a high-ranking official such as the chief of metro police must first start with a cause for suspension, a letter of intention to suspend must then be issued and the official must have seven days to respond and explain why they should not be suspended. The city manager and mayor would also have to be consulted and only then can the HOD make a decision.

Immediately after the meeting, Mazibuko sent out a letter titled "Outcomes of the meeting with MMC, HOD and JMPD", in which he lifts the suspension of the 13 officers.

"All employees affected by such suspensions are to return to their substantive posts with no changes made to their conditions of service," Mazibuko wrote.

Mazibuko said his comment would come from the MMC's office but this had not been received at the time of going to print.

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