15 April 2024 | 12:47 PM

Mdluli ‘ally’ set to watch over Hawks

Key Takeaways

New allegations have raised further questions about the appointment of Major General Mthandazo “Benny” Ntlemeza as acting commander of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation – the Hawks.

Ntlemeza was appointed by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko late last year after the minister suspended Hawks commander Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat.

The suspension and Ntlemeza’s appointment have been challenged in the high court in Pretoria by the Helen Suzman Foundation (see “Minister ‘plays for time’ in Dramat case”).

Now an affidavit obtained by investigator Paul O’Sullivan has alleged that Ntlemeza acted to protect a police officer accused of serious offences while in his previous position as Limpopo deputy provincial commissioner.

The affidavit, which amaBhungane has seen, also shows that the complaint concerning Ntlemeza’s handling of the case – the officer was later dismissed for possession of stolen property – was brought to Nhleko’s attention shortly before he appointed Ntlemeza.

No comment

Nhleko’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment. He has failed to respond to calls since controversy erupted around Dramat’s suspension.

The affidavit stems from a junior officer, Lieutenant Boitumelo Ramahlaha, who served under Ntlemeza’s command in Limpopo.

Ramahlaha declined to speak to amaBhungane. But in his affidavit he says he took it upon himself to contact O’Sullivan after he read in the newspapers that Ntlemeza had been appointed acting head of the Hawks: “I cannot think of a more damning travesty of justice and, as a result, wanted to take steps to do something about this.”

The affidavit accuses Ntlemeza of protecting Captain Thomas Rallele between 2012 and 2014, allegedly because Rallele was the boyfriend of Ntlemeza’s daughter.

Responding on behalf of Ntlemeza, Hawks acting spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said Ntlemeza had, in fact, been instrumental in Rallele’s dismissal.

“We believe the affidavit is meant for jumbling up, cheap propaganda, blackmail [and] making confusion, and it is contentless.”

Ulterior motives

He said Ramahlaha was facing charges of his own and was bent on “revenge” against Ntlemeza “for unknown reasons”. In his affidavit Ramahlaha denied having ulterior motives. Rallele refused to comment.

In the affidavit Ramahlaha states that in early 2012 he personally reported to Ntlemeza the suspicions he had about Rallele, the commander of the local tactical response team, alleging Rallele was misusing state vehicles.

He said Ntlemeza initially dismissed these allegations, but after several complaints referred the matter for internal investigation.

An official February 2012 report to Ntlemeza, attached to Ramahlaha’s affidavit, which he also provided to the minister, found that Rallele had made fraudulent entries in the vehicle registers of the state vehicles he had used.

Ramahlaha states: “Despite having received this report Ntlemeza suppressed any action against Rallele, including any further investigation. It is my humble opinion that Ntlemeza did this because Rallele was dating Ntlemeza’s daughter.”

In January 2014 Ramahlaha submitted a further grievance to Ntlemeza against Rallele, who was by then his commander in the provincial tracking team. Again, abuse of state vehicles featured high among the complaints.

Break-in at cops house

Finally, according to the affidavit, Ramahlaha received information in February 2014 concerning a break-in at the Polokwane house of a Colonel Mohale. His informer said Rallele was not only involved in the break-in, but was also still in possession of a smartphone that had been stolen.

He passed this information on to both Ntlemeza and Mohale. They called Rallele in and dialled the number. The phone rang in his pocket. Only after this was Rallele charged.

According to Ramahlaha, Rallele continued in the service, on full pay and at work, despite his court conviction for possession of stolen property in May 2014. Ramahlaha claims Rallele was only discharged from the service in December 2014.

Ramahlaha alleges that, despite his discharge, Rallele continues to be in possession of his service pistol, full uniform, appointment certificate, a police computer and 3G card giving him access to police systems, and two police cellular phones.

In his letter to Nhleko, apparently delivered to the minister’s chief of staff by email on December 13 –some 10 days before Ntlemeza was appointed – Ramahlaha called on Nhleko to investigate the allegations.

The minister may have decided to ignore the allegations of a junior officer. But the choice of Ntlemeza, who is not a member of the Hawks, is significant given his role in the Richard Mdluli saga.

In July 2009, shortly after Mdluli was appointed the divisional commissioner for crime intelligence, Mdluli became aware of efforts to reopen the investigation into the 1999 murder of Oupa Ramogibe.

Love triangle

Mdluli was alleged to have been involved in a love triangle with Ramogibe’s wife. He personally briefed Ntlemeza to conduct an investigation into an alleged plot to discredit him. Ntlemeza handed his report, dated January 14 2010, directly to Mdluli, who used it to try to discredit the allegations against him surrounding Ramogibe’s death.

Ntlemeza reported: “It is clear that there was a plot within the crime intelligence environment to prevent divisional commissioner Mdluli … from being appointed as the head of crime intelligence of the South African Police Service.

“The plotters, according to the evidence gathered … even tried to go back to the police station where commissioner Mdluli was working as the head of detectives, looking for an old case where a certain suspect was killed by an unknown person …”

Ntlemeza found there was no evidence to link Mdluli to the events surrounding Ramogibe’s death.

Mdluli pledges his loyalty

In November 2010, when a re-investigation by the Hawks of the Ramogibe matter was closing in on Mdluli, he sent a copy of Ntlemeza’s report to President Jacob Zuma, with a letter in which he linked the case against him to Zuma’s political rivals and pledged his loyalty to the ANC.

Mdluli was arrested in March 2011 before the matter was controversially referred to an inquest, which found insufficient evidence to link Mdluli to the murder.

However, the withdrawal of murder charges was subject to rulings by the high court in Pretoria and then the Supreme Court of Appeal, which finally left the matter to the discretion of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The NPA announced last year that it would not recharge Mdluli with murder, but would pursue supplementary charges relating to the Ramogibe saga, including intimidation, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.

Mdluli and a co-accused are due to go on trial in June. Mdluli claims the charges are part of a conspiracy against him.

Minister ‘plays for time’ in Dramat case

The attempt by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to postpone a court hearing into the suspension of Hawks boss Anwa Dramat may be designed to give the minister time to persuade Dramat to go quietly.

That’s according to a source close to Dramat’s legal team, who indicated that the minister has proposed a meeting on January 19, the same day the matter is due to be argued in the high court in Pretoria.

Shadrack Sibiya (Paul Botes)

On Thursday lawyers for the Helen Suzman Foundation, which brought an urgent application to overturn the suspension, reluctantly agreed to the postponement.

The foundation is acting independently of Dramat, who indicated in correspondence with the minister that he may be prepared to take early retirement if Nhleko revokes the suspension.

In his letter he said the attempt to remove him was driven by “massive resentment” over Hawks investigations involving “very influential persons”.

If Dramat agrees to go, it might render the court judgment irrelevant, although the foundation says the minister acted unconstitutionally by suspending the Hawks head in terms of normal police employment regulations.

Lawyers for the state said they had not been given sufficient time to respond to a matter that the police ministry agrees is of constitutional significance.

On Thursday advocate David Unterhalter, for the foundation, argued that the “decapitation” of the head of such a critically important corruption-fighting unit was gravely damaging.

Acting Hawks boss Mthandazo Ntlemeza has already moved to suspend Gauteng Hawks commander Shadrack Sibiya.

He and Dramat are accused of complicity in the illegal deportation of several Zimbabwean crime suspects in late 2010 – some of whom were subsequently allegedly killed by Zimbabwean police. Dramat has dismissed this allegation, calling it a “smokescreen”. – Sam Sole

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Buyeleni Sibanyoni and Sam Sole

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