National police commissioner Riah Phiyega. Picture: GCIS
Riah Phiyega. Picture: GCIS

GAUTENG’s new provincial police chief, Lt-Gen Bethuel Mondli Zuma, was withdrawn by national commissioner Riah Phiyega on Saturday, hours after being appointed.

Gen Phiyega said she had not been aware of any criminal investigations involving Lt-Gen Zuma.

“I became aware of the court charges ... just after the media briefing today. I immediately met him to establish the facts,” she said in a statement. “He confirmed that indeed he had appeared several times in court since 2008 when the matter was first heard. He will be appearing again next month.”

According to newspaper reports on Sunday, the charges against Lt-Gen Zuma related to him allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol, failing to stop at a roadblock and refusing to have a blood alcohol sample taken.

Gen Phiyega had appointed him and upgraded his rank earlier on Saturday in Pretoria.

She said all South African Police Service (SAPS) workers had been advised in May this year to disclose whether they had any pending criminal investigations against them. Failure to do so would be viewed as a serious misconduct.

“I have therefore taken a firm decision to permanently withdraw his appointment. Disciplinary steps will be taken against Lt-Gen Zuma for his failure to declare the pending criminal charges,” Gen Phiyega said.

Lt-Gen Lesetja Mothiba, divisional commissioner for visible policing, will be acting provincial commissioner of Gauteng until further notice.

Gen Phiyega said Lt-Gen Zuma had “always come across as a decent, capable and committed police official and leader”, adding: “I am sad and disappointed in him.”

Lt-Gen Zuma, who has 20 years’ experience as a police officer, was meant to replace Lt-Gen Mzwandile Petros, whose last day as provincial chief was on Saturday.

“I wish to also take this opportunity to thank Lt-Gen Petros for being a loyal servant of the service,” Gen Phiyega said earlier. “He is the epitome of a professional police officer.”

She said Lt-Gen Petros had agreed to stay with the police for a year. “We have been engaged in discussions about his future role in the police.

“He indicated his desire to move on and pursue other interests. I have tried hard to ensure that his skills are not lost to the SAPS. He has kindly agreed to stay on until the end of this year to focus on a number of special projects.”

Sapa with Staff Writer