‘Truth and justice must prevail’

Dan Plato.

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 Athlone, Steenberg, Lansdowne, Philippi, Grassy Park, Strandfontein, Lentegeur and Mitchell’s Plain 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 an Athlone News 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,” he 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 sometime 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 expose themselves to crime in a professional way,” he said.

Last year, the SAPS served a notice of possible suspension on Mr Loonat – just six months after he had been elected as chairman (“CPF chair steps down,” January 26, Athlone News).

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.