PE army colonel ‘dodging’ the cops

A group of armed SANDF members gather outside Port Elizabeth City Hall yesterday. Picture: Eugene Coetzee
A group of armed SANDF members dumped household goods outside Port Elizabeth City Hall earlier this month Picture: Eugene Coetzee

Base commander accused of bullying soldiers not to give police statements

The SA National Defence Force commander who allegedly gave the order for furniture to be dumped on the doorstep of the Port Elizabeth City Hall is dodging the cops and has allegedly barred his soldiers from speaking to detectives.

Forest Hill military base commanding officer Colonel Veli Phakathi’s actions have prompted members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on defence to call for a top-level investigation by the ministry.

The astonishing scenes of soldiers dumping household goods at City Hall culminated in a standoff between city officials and the soldiers who damaged a municipal vehicle as they tried to push it out of the road so they could leave.

Since the beginning of the month police have made several failed attempts to meet Phakathi.

Earlier this week, a formal letter from police to the militar y’s legal affairs department was sent asking that Phakathi meet detectives after he failed to honour two prior meetings which had been set up and agreed to.

He again failed to meet police this week, with his office saying he was in Pretoria.

Detectives want to obtain a statement from Phakathi after one of the soldiers involved fingered him as giving the official order.

After the soldier gave his statement, Phakathi allegedly told the other soldiers they must not speak to the police.

Police officers linked to the probe said Phakathi was using “bully tactics” to try to quash the investigation.

After the furniture was dumped, on November 4, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality laid complaints of intimidation, damage to property and illegal dumping.

A police officer said: “There is a fear of victimisation if anyone goes against his [Phakathi’s] orders.

“The soldier who gave the statement even went back to the police station to try and recant it.”

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