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The decision to suspend KwaZulu-Natal Police Commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni was apparently taken so that she would not intimidate witnesses and ensure the confidentiality of an on-going investigation. These were some of the reasons cited on Wednesday by the acting national police commissioner Kgotso Phahlane’s legal counsel when he lost his application against Ngobeni in the Durban High Court. After her suspension in May, Ngobeni launched a court application to have it set aside. Judge Nkosinathi Chili had ruled in her favour, which led to Phahlane’s application for leave to appeal this decision. He also wanted leave to appeal the judge’s decision to set aside the board of inquiry Phahlane wanted to establish, to investigate the allegations of misconduct levelled against Ngobeni. Chili dismissed this application yesterday with Phahlane’s advocate, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, indicating they would challenge this decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) or the Constitutional Court.
Ngobeni’s attorney, Ravindra Maniklal, told journalists outside court that Ngobeni had also made an application for her to return to work, but judgment on this had been reserved. Ngobeni, seated in the public gallery, smiled with excitement, covered her face with her hands and then wiped her eyes when Chili dismissed Phahlane’s application. But her joy at the Chili’s decision was short-lived when Ngcukaitobi indicated dissatisfaction. Ngcukaitobi argued that lifting Ngobeni’s suspension would cause harm to the case against her and alleged she would intimidate potential witnesses within the police service. “If she goes back to work, this will harm the public’s perception when they see her back in her position after such serious allegations of consorting with a criminal suspect,” he said. Ngobeni’s legal representative, advocate Greg Harpur, argued his client would suffer irreparable damage should the SCA application be granted.
He said the matter could take up to two years and by then his client’s contract, which ends in 2018, would end. “Appeal processes take too long. This will run right through the end of her term. My client will, during this time, lose experience in her job while waiting for the outcome of this case. “I don’t understand why (one would want to) enforce a suspension when my client wants to go back to work and earn the salary she is receiving while sitting at home,” said Harpur. Ngobeni is accused of misconduct, over allegations that businessman Thoshan Panday paid for her husband’s birthday party. She is also accused of ordering police to stop investigating Panday in connection with a police accommodation tender worth R60 million.