17 June 2024 | 11:55 AM

Officers under fire after probe

Key Takeaways

Controversy-plagued crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli tried to discipline two officers for daring to investigate him in connection with a murder — and then tried to shift them out of crime intelligence.

The Mail & Guardian has seen letters that Mdluli, then already divisional commissioner of crime intelligence, wrote two years ago to warrant officers Thomas Rikhotso and Patrick Magabe, who were based in Vosloorus on Gauteng’s East Rand.

In these, he said that they would be shifted from crime intelligence to crime prevention in other areas and asked them to choose one of a number of distant police stations — or have the choice made for them.

Four months later, Mdluli notified Magabe that he was to be stationed at Magaliesburg, whereas Rikhotso would be based in Sebokeng.

However, after the intervention of the South African Police Union (Sapu), both the charges and the transfers were withdrawn.

The two officers had investigated the 1999 murder of Oupa Ramogibe, who was romantically linked to Mdluli’s girlfriend at the time of his death.

Mdluli, then a station commander on the East Rand, is said to have been deeply unhappy about the relationship.

A well-placed source said Rikhotso and Magabe had investigated the circumstances surrounding the murder and submitted a report that was damaging to Mdluli.

This was during the course of 2009.

It was on the basis of this report that Mdluli was charged with murder last year, said the source.

The charge was controversially withdrawn in February when the National Prosecuting Authority decided a judicial inquest should be held instead.

The two officers had each served in the crime intelligence unit for 10 years when Mdluli wrote to them in February 2010, telling them they were to be moved.

In another letter, dated March 23 2010, Mdluli wrote to then-Gauteng crime intelligence boss Joey Mabasa demanding that the two be charged, saying that their immediate removal from the crime intelligence environment was necessary “to avoid further embarrassment”.

In his letter to Mabasa, Mdluli quoted the findings of Limpopo’s deputy police commissioner, General Benny Ntlemeza, whom he had allegedly appointed to investigate Rikhotso and Magabe.

Ntlemeza found that the two investigators were plotting to prevent Mdluli’s promotion to divisional commissioner of crime intelligence.

Indeed, Rikhotso and Magabe were served with charge sheets in December 2010.

Included were a range of disciplinary offences — investigating Mdluli without permission, intimidating an informer, the unauthorised use of a state vehicle during their investigation and leaking information to the Sowetan newspaper implicating Mdluli in Ramogibe’s murder.

The move against the officers prompted the union’s intervention.

Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere said this week that the union decided to step in once it became clear that Rikhotso and Magabe were being unfairly treated.

The union enlisted the services of lawyer Kwena Moabelo, who wrote numerous letters to national commissioner Bheki Cele asking him to intervene, without result.

Among Sapu’s concerns were Mdluli’s alleged violation of police transfer policies and his appointment of a general from another province to investigate Rikhotso and Magabe without Cele’s permission.

In one plea to Cele dated March 2 2010, Moabele says: “Our members are in crime intelligence; how does he [Mdluli] arrive at the decision to transfer them to crime prevention?

“There exists no merits to transfer members to crime prevention, as divisional commissioner Mdluli is not the head of crime prevention and hence cannot shed light [on] the activities of stations [and] crime prevention.”

In another letter to Cele dated three months later, Moabele asserts that Mdluli’s attempts to remove the officers from crime intelligence unit are “without just cause” and that Mdluli “has a history of antagonism against the employees”.

The M&G met the two officers on the East Rand last week in a bid to reflect their viewpoint.

However, Rikhotso denied that they had ever investigated Mdluli, saying that the charges against them were dropped after it became clear that they were baseless.

In the 64-page report sent to President Jacob Zuma and other high-ranking officials and politicians in November 11 2010, and subsequently leaked to the media, Mdluli repeated the claim that Rikhotso and Magabe’s investigation was no more than an attempt to block his appointment as divisional commissioner.

Accusing the two of abusing state resources to fight a personal vendetta against him, he endorsed Ntlemeza’s recommendations that action be taken against the two.

Sapu president Mpho Kwinika said Ntlemeza should never have been involved in an inter-provincial investigation and that Mdluli had based his order for the transfer of the two investigators on his “ill-informed report”.

On September 28 last year, former acting divisional commissioner Major General Vele Matshatshe wrote to the union informing it of the unconditional withdrawal of charges against Rikhotso and Magabe.

The department’s safety and security sectoral bargaining council confirmed shortly afterwards that Mdluli had voluntarily withdrawn all charges.

The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, supported by M&G Media and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa, produced this story. All views are the centre’s. www.amabhungane.co.za.

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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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