A senior policeman claimed Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros ordered a coverup in Tony Yengeni’s drunk driving arrest, a Cape Town magistrate was told on Friday.
Constable Jeremy Voskuil, one of the two policemen present at the arrest, was testifying on the second day of Yengeni’s drunk driving trial in the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court.
He broke down in tears at the end of his testimony, after being repeatedly grilled by both magistrate Ricardo Phillips and defence counsel Dirk Uijs on why he went along with the coverup. “I was scared,” he said.
Yengeni, a former ANC chief whip in Parliament, was arrested shortly after midnight on the night on November 25 last year. At the time he was on no-alcohol parole, following a spell in jail for fraud.
Voskuil said that the night after the arrest, when he went on parade at the Goodwood police station at the beginning of his shift, his shift commander, a Captain Adonis, announced that station commissioner Senior Superintendent Siphiwe Hewana was coming in to the station that night in connection with the case.
“She then said Supt Hewana needed to see Const Jaftha because there is some discrepancies in his statement that needed to be changed,” Voskuil said.
Charles Jaftha was Voskuil’s colleague, and the person who formally arrested Yengeni. Voskuil said Adonis’s announcement provoked a spirited discussion among the members on the parade, because everyone knew a statement could not be changed.
However, Adonis said maybe what Hewana meant was just that Jaftha should make an additional statement.
Later that night, Hewana called him and Jaftha to his office, and told them the Yengeni arrest was causing problems for a lot of people, himself included, but that there was a “solution”.
“He kept on talking about the case and said a lot of people had been phoning him, coming to see him in his office, saying he saying he does not have control over his members, and this problem must be solved, sorted out, your worship,” Voskuil told magistrate Phillips.
He asked Hewana what he meant, and Hewana said it would be better for all concerned if the time of arrest was changed to 9pm on the evening of the 25th — some three hours earlier than it actually happened.
“Is it an offence to do that?” asked magistrate Ricardo Phillips. “Definitely, your worship,” said Voskuil. Hewana had mentioned Yengeni’s parole conditions, which included a curfew, as the reason for the change, Voskuil said.
At the time he had not realised that the change would also affect the validity of Yengeni’s blood sample, which by law had to be taken within two hours of arrest.
He said Hewana continued talking about the freedom struggle and the role Yengeni, a former Umkhonto we Sizwe commander, had played in it along with Commissioner Petros and his deputies.
Petros and the deputies had also been MK members and were still ANC members, and none of them wanted to see Yengeni go to jail.
Hewana said Petros wanted the Yengeni docket first thing the next morning, and that the docket should reflect the time of arrest as 9pm. “Knowing it was wrong, your worship, I then told Supt Hewana this; that it would be wrong or unlawful to change the time of arrest, your worship,” Voskuil said.
“He then told me it’s not the first time that something like this had happened and it won’t definitely be the last time, your worship. “I then asked Supt Hewana where this instruction came from and he told me that he got this instruction from the provincial commissioner himself, your worship.
“At that point in time, your worship, I honestly did not know where I was.” Hewana had also told him and Jaftha this would be an appropriate time to think about their families and their livelihoods, and about their futures in the police. He dictated new statements to the two constables, changing the arrest time to 9pm, saying Yengeni stopped of his own accord immediately after his vehicle hit the centre island of Voortrekker Road in Goodwood, and that Yengeni told them he was on cough medication.
Asked by Uijs in cross-examination why he did not immediately report Hewana’s demands to a more senior policeman or a prosecutor, Voskuil said he had felt threatened and helpless. “I just decided I’m not going to trust anyone when it comes to this case,” he said.
Uijs accused him of colluding with Jaftha — who testified last week — to make sure their versions of events tallied, and of “wriggling like a fish on the end of a hook” when he was caught out. Earlier he had told the court that the BMW veered onto the centre island twice as he and Jaftha looked on.
When stopped, Yengeni had admitted to Jaftha than he had been drinking, and apologised, using the Xhosa word “ndiyaxolisa”. The case was postponed to December 5.