20 July 2024 | 11:28 PM

Claims of SAPS plot against police minister

Key Takeaways

An intelligence report that accuses former acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi of being part of a group of senior officers bent on destroying the crime intelligence unit is new evidence of the bitter struggle in the top echelons of the police.

The report, marked top secret, is not signed or dated, but its authenticity has been partly confirmed by a request by the crime intelligence unit for the Mail & Guardian not to publish details of an interception technique referred to in the report on the grounds that it would disclose police methods.

But some aspects of the report’s contents — such as details of a meeting Mkhwanazi held with crime intelligence officers — have been independently confirmed.

It is not clear who drafted the document, although it is similar in style to the reports — addressed to President Jacob Zuma — of suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and makes similar claims about a top-level police conspiracy against him.

One source claims that the report was used as the basis of a briefing by Mdluli before his second suspension in June, which followed an interim court order obtained by lobby group Freedom Under Law barring him from police work.

Mdluli could not be reached for comment and his lawyer, Ike Motlaung, said he had “no mandate” to respond to questions about the report.

It alleges that senior managers of crime intelligence and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa were being targeted by “the so-called unhappy officers, media as well as NGOs [non-governmental organisations]”.

‘Targeted and weaken’

Verbatim, the report states: “Latest information is that the minister of police has been targeted and being weaken about the alleged fence which was erected around his home in Kwambonambi. It has been decided that more media campaign regarding the wall fence must be vigorously persuited. This will weaken him like what was done to Lieutenant General Mdluli.”

Last week auditor general Terence Nombembe disclosed that, contrary to regulations, about R200 000 from the secret services account was used to build a perimeter security fence around the minister’s KwaZulu-Natal home, although his report claimed Mthethwa was not aware of the source of the funds.

The finding contradicts Mthe­thwa’s initial statements about it. He said: “There was an undertaking from the SAPS to yield a security fence around the house, which never materialised as the minister did most of the fencing himself.”

The Democratic Alliance this week asked how Mthethwa could not have known who paid for it and asked the public protector to investigate the matter.

The intelligence report also accuses Mkhwa­nazi, since replaced by new commissioner Riah Phiyega, of ­conspiring with veteran crime intelligence officer Mark Hankel to investigate Mthethwa’s love life.

“Lt General Mkhwanazi and Major General Hankel are also investigating the new car driven by certain lady … whom it is alleged that she has a romantic relationship with Minister Nathi Mthethwa.”

Investigations into the crime intelligence unit have included how funds from the covert secret services account were used to buy vehicles for Mdluli, other senior generals and their friends and families.

Meeting Mkhwanazi

The author of the report recounts a meeting held by Mkhwanazi with crime intelligence operational members at the Pretoria Police College after he assumed acting command of the police late last year.

“He [Mkhwanazi] accused all members to be corrupt and some of them were murderers. He said some of the members were from exile, some of the members were comrades who were pushing political agendas in crime intelligence. He further said some of the members were busy running to [ANC headquarters] Luthuli House and being managed from Luthuli House.

“He said he knew all the members who are running to the minister’s house … and that he has a team which is surveilling those people now. He said currently the crime intelligence has corrupted the minister and that he is shaking where he is … He said it was because of the crime intelligence’s mess which put a wall fence to the minister’s house using Secret Service money.

“He said an ML Mercedes Benz was bought for the minister of which was found in Cape Town and that when he [Mkhwanazi] asked who owned that car, nobody took responsibility for it. He then decided to take the car for his own use.”

When reports about the car appeared in the media, Mthethwa denied making use of it, or even being aware of the vehicle. The auditor general’s probe could find no ­evidence to back up the claims.
The intelligence report records another meeting in Cape Town with crime intelligence management at which Mkhwanazi was reportedly similarly outspoken.

The acting commissioner was told that provincial crime intelligence commander Major General Eugene van Vuuren was absent because he was sick. Van Vuuren is regarded in police management circes as an ally of Mdluli, especially in relation to the power struggles with Hawks boss Anwa Dramat.

Released from custody … to play golf

The report claims Mkhwanazi’s response was undiplomatic: “Mkhwanazi said Major General Van Vuuren was like those friends of the politicians who commit crimes and get convicted and sentenced to imprisonment and thereafter claims that they are sick and dying so that they can be released, but after three months they found playing golf.”

The inclusion of this caustic reference to Zuma’s former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, underlines the impression of a report calculated to suggest the president made a mistake by appointing Mkhwanazi to act as national commissioner in the wake of Bheki Cele’s suspension.

The report claims that Mkhwanazi was spying on two generals in charge of VIP protection who are perceived to be close allies of the president.

It states: “Instructions had been given that Major General [Bhoyi] Ngcobo of VIP and Major General [Mxolisi] Dladla of Presidential Protection Service must be investigated for any corruption or any business dealings which will result in either criminally or departmentally charged … They are being surveilled and their cellphones monitored. Major General Hankel … is tasked to do this dirty job.”

Ironically, it is rumoured that Dladla, who knew Mkhwanazi from his time at the police special task force, was one of those who recommended him to the president and was embarrassed by the way in which Mkhwanazi’s unexpected robust independence has played out politically.

The report lists those officers who have been “directly or indirectly identified as involved in this destruction of the institution of the state”, including Mkhwanazi; his deputy, General Fanie Masemola; Dramat; the man in charge of Mdluli’s disciplinary process, General Godfrey Lebeya; Hankel; and the officer leading the Hawks investigation of Mdluli, Colonel Kobus Roelofse.

‘Information peddling’

Mthethwa said he did not respond to “information peddling” and declined to answer questions about the report. Hankel could not be reached for comment and Mkhwanazi referred questions to police communications boss General Nonkululeko Mbatha, who did not respond.

Many of the same police officers were accused of being behind a plot against Mdluli that was outlined in a letter he drafted and addressed to Zuma last year.

Last month, a ministerial task team found there was no evidence to back those allegations.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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