It is believed by a former high-ranking policeman that a cop appointed by Nelson Mandela to head up a special investigative unit instead protected mafioso Vito Palazzolo.
Leonard Knipe, a former senior policeman with the murder and robbery unit, testified this in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
“I’m saying there was an endeavour to protect Vito Palazzolo,” he said.
Knipe also labelled a probe into Palazzolo by police Major-General Andre Lincoln “a farce”.
Knipe was testifying in the civil trial brought on by Lincoln.
In 1996, then-president Mandela had appointed Lincoln to head up a special presidential investigative task unit, which would operate separately from the police and report to Mandela, former deputy president Thabo Mbeki and then-minister of safety and security Sydney Mufamadi.
Lincoln was tasked with, among other matters, investigating Palazzolo and his links to government officials, police and businessmen.
He was previously arrested when criminal allegations against him and others in the presidential investigative unit then surfaced.
Lincoln is now claiming R15m in damages from the minister of safety and security (now the minister of police) for alleged malicious prosecution.
He previously testified that he believed Knipe was part of a group of police officers that “cleaned” crime scenes, including after the killing of seven anti-apartheid activists in Gugulethu in 1986, and the bombing of Community House in Salt River in 1987.
Knipe denied this.
On Wednesday, Knipe was cross-examined.
Lincoln’s advocate Johann Nortje put it to him that when the presidential investigative unit was in its initial stages, it had taken over “dormant” investigations.
This included an alleged assassination attempt targeting Mandela to have been carried out at his 1994 inauguration.
Knipe did not recall Lincoln testifying about this as he may not have been present in court at the time.
Nortje said some police officers may have been upset about the investigative unit’s probes into police officials.
He said Lincoln had complained about interferences into the unit’s probes to Mbeki and former national police commissioner George Fivaz.
The case continues.