A police supplier linked to corruption has succeeded in shutting down some of the police's systems.
On Wednesday evening at around 19:50 Forensic Data Analysts (FDA) sent out a statement threatening that the police's Property Control and Exhibit Management and Firearm Permit System would "unfortunately be suspended by FDA" unless the police and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) pay FDA.
According to FDA, the company hasn't been paid since December.
On Thursday the police and SITA confirmed in a joint statement that "certain systems have indeed been shut down and while the shutting down of the said systems is likely to affect the efficiency of certain operations within the SAPS, they however do not completely bring operations to a halt".
"To ensure that operations can continue unhindered and that service delivery is not compromised, contingency plans have been put in place," reads the statement.
"In the meantime, we are seeking legal advice on this matter and we will act accordingly. Also, we will not be giving out specifics given that there are serious security implications and that we may potentially need to act on the legal advice if necessary."
Dramatic Scopa meeting
Meanwhile, FDA has been widely condemned for holding the police "ransom". Two parliamentary committees said they would expedite their scrutiny on FDA's dealings with the police.
FDA's directors are former police officer turned businessman Keith Keating, and Vhonani Mufamadi, brother of former minister of safety and security Sydney Mufamadi.
Keating is a central figure in the corruption case against former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane which is currently before the court. He allegedly paid for Phahlane's vehicles.
Further graft allegations emerged at a dramatic meeting of Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) on November 29 last year.
At that meeting it emerged that SITA awarded a contract for police forensic equipment, mostly lights and Nikon cameras, worth more than R900m to FDA and a contract to another Keating-linked company for the maintenance of this equipment without following procurement processes and without there being a reason for FDA being the sole provider.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) recommended that the police stop paying FDA, a view which was shared by Scopa.
'Why does one man have so much power?'
It was also said that FDA had done business worth R5bn with the police since 2010. Keating disputes this figure and earlier denied the allegations, saying they were part of a plot for a hostile takeover of his business.
On Thursday Scopa chairperson Themba Godi said the committee was "shocked and disappointed with the fact that one man can hold the whole country to ransom by having the power to switch off the criminal justice system".
"It is really puzzling as to why one man can have such power over equipment that is owned by the government. If this equipment has been bought by the government, what gives FDA the right to switch it off?"
Godi said Scopa's call to SITA to not continue with the payments wasn't made in a vacuum and arose from the officials' own questioning of the legality of the contracts.
"Scopa then said if there is illegality, the officials should not pay," said Godi.
Scopa is scheduled to meet with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to clarify matters relating to various contracts including the one with FDA.
Agreements 'a major business and security risk'
"Scopa is going to prioritise the meeting with SAPS in the light of these shenanigans by FDA," said Godi.
The Portfolio Committee on Police will also prioritise the matter, its chairperson Francois Beukman said.
The committee will discuss the matter in two weeks' time and it will have a special hearing on the police's technology procurement in June, Beukman said in a statement.
"The situation is untenable and national police management must address the matter as a priority," he said.
According to Beukman, the status of some of the procurement agreements entered into by the SAPS and SITA are a major business and security risk.
He pointed out that several irregularities in contracts were recently pointed out by IPID during a briefing to the committee.
"The committee expects the national commissioner to launch the necessary investigations into the specific contracts, service providers and SAPS members involved," Beukman said.
DA MP and spokesperson on police Zakhele Mbhele said it was "outrageous that South Africa's national security and integrity of the criminal justice system are being held to ransom by Forensic Data Analysis (FDA), a private company which is currently under investigation for possible corruption".
According to Mbhele, National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole is obligated to ensure that he enforces the recommendation made by IPID to terminate all contracts with FDA.
"The recklessness of the threat made by Keith Keating, the director of FDA, to 'collapse the criminal justice system' if SAPS fails to adhere to his demands is testament to the evolving crisis of chronic mismanagement within SAPS," said Mbhele.
"It is inconceivable how SAPS dropped the ball and failed to enter into a service level agreement to prevent 'ransom demands' by suppliers such as the FDA."
Mbhele said he and DA MP Tim Brauteseth, who serves on Scopa and led the inquisition in the November 29 meeting, would ask their respective committees to demand the immediate termination of all contracts with FDA "as a first step in restoring SAPS independence".
Independent forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan on Thursday morning sent a letter to several members of the police's top brass, Police Minister Bheki Cele and the office of President Cyril Ramaphosa, wherein he asked them not to "stand idly by whilst these criminals hold the country to ransom".
"And now, when Keating and Mufamadi see the taps of corruption being turned off, they threaten to shut down the criminal justice system, because they are running out of liquidity," wrote O'Sullivan.
"I say good, let them bleed to death and vanish into obscurity. Let the taxpayer fight back, by hiring the best legal brains that money can buy and mounting a fight-back that will expose the dark underbelly of corruption that has permeated the criminal justice system for so long."