14 June 2024 | 02:16 AM

Police boss moves against Mdluli

Key Takeaways

Acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi has given embattled crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and his ally, the manager of the police secret services account, Major General Solly Lazarus, seven days to give reasons why they should not be suspended for a second time.

The move may indicate an increasing defiance by Mkhwanazi of political attempts to bury the Mdluli investigation.

The Mail & Guardian has confirmed from three independent sources that Mdluli and Lazarus both received the letters. Brigadier Lindela Mashigo, Mkhwanazi’s spokesperson, would not confirm this, saying it was an internal matter.

Mdluli and Lazarus were reinstated on March 27 following a stormy meeting between Mkhwanazi, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and inspector general of intelligence Faith Radebe.

The reinstatement — contrary to Radebe’s written advice that criminal charges against Mdluli and disciplinary charges against Lazarus should proceed — was widely viewed as having been precipitated by pressure from Mthethwa.

Mthethwa has denied issuing such an instruction, but the withdrawal of murder and fraud charges against Mdluli and his return as crime intelligence boss prompted a public outcry.

Temporary transfer

Last week Mthethwa acted to diffuse pressure by announcing that Mdluli would be temporarily transferred from crime intelligence while a ministerial task team investigated claims that there was a conspiracy against him by other senior police generals.

But Mthethwa’s action did not prevent advocacy group Freedom under Law from launching an urgent application on Tuesday to have Mdluli suspended pending a full high court review of the decisions that led to his reinstatement.

Mkwhanazi’s move against Mdluli may partially defuse the application, but it also suggests that the government is losing control of its attempts to manage the situation politically.

Mkhwanazi has previously expressed his unhappiness over how police decisions on certain cases have been dictated by “powers beyond us” — and was understood to be referring to the Mdluli saga.

Zuma told a business breakfast on Thursday there was “no need for alarm” over the government’s handling of Mdluli, but the Freedom under Law application contains new revelations that will ratchet up public concern. — Additional reporting by Glynnis Underhill

Court dossier reveals extreme measures to quash charges

Top police and prosecuting officials interfered heavily to torpedo the investigation into crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, according to a bombshell report compiled by the chief investigator.

Rights lobby group Freedom Under Law this week disclosed the 24-page report by Colonel Kobus Roelofse, addressed to his commander at the anti-corruption task team and dated March 2 .

It forms part of the organisation’s urgent application to have Mdluli suspended pending a court review of the decisions to abandon murder and corruption charges against him.

The report details extraordinary allegations of threats, intimidation, interference and legal gerrymandering to get Mdluli and his co-accused off the hook.

Among the disclosures are:

    • On March 18 last year Hawks boss Anwa Dramat asked Roelofse and his colleague, Piet Viljoen, to take over the investigation into the murder case against Mdluli because the team, under the command of Major General Shadrack Sibiya, “were threatened and were unable to continue with the said investigation”.

      A source close to the investigation said Sibiya’s local investigators received death threats and their homes were placed under surveillance, hence a decision was taken to use Roelofse and Viljoen, who were from Cape Town and less vulnerable to local threats.

      On March 31 last year, the new team arrested Mdluli and charged him with involvement in the 1999 murder of alleged love-rival Oupa Ramogibe. He was released shortly after that.

 

    • Following Mdluli’s second arrest on September 20 last year on additional charges relating to the alleged abuse of funds from the secret service account, Roelofse states he was told by Sibiya he had been “taken to task” by some police generals. This was apparently for “allowing this investigation to continue beyond the scope of the murder investigation … he was accused of having no control over the investigative team”.

 

    • The attempt to probe the misuse of the crime intelligence secret fund led to serious blowback. A colonel working under Major General Solly Lazarus had to be placed in witness protection after he decided to assist the investigators.

      Roelofse describes how, after confiding in a colleague, the colonel was taken by a group of crime intelligence officers to Lazarus’s house, where he was interrogated.

      “The next day the member was again fetched at his home and taken to Major General Lazarus’s office where he was subjected to intimidation … Due to these actions the member and his family were placed into the witness protection programme.”

 

    • Crime intelligence co-ordinator Mark Hankel, who had been appointed to assist the investigation, appears to have become a target. Roelofse’s team was informed that Lazarus approached the chairperson of the joint standing committee on intelligence, Cecil Burgess, to convince him that the investigation compromised national security.

      “A letter from Burgess stating that Hankel must be removed from the investigation was sent to the acting divisional commissioner of crime intelligence,” Roelofse states.

      Burgess did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

      Hankel was removed from crime intelligence after Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi took over as acting commissioner of police. In addition, the M&G has established that Hankel is among the key targets of an informal intelligence operation that appears to be designed to dig up dirt on Mdluli’s opponents.

 

    • Controversial head of the specialised commercial crimes unit Lawrence Mrwebi engaged in a series of legal gymnastics to reach a decision to withdraw fraud charges against Mdluli, relating to allegations that he had engineered a personal benefit from discounts obtained on cars bought with secret services account funds.

      According to Roelofse, representations by Mdluli on the fraud charges were delivered by hand to Mrwebi on November 17 last year. Mdluli argued there was a conspiracy against him and that the criminal case against him was weak.

      The prosecutor in the case, Chris Smith, was asked to respond, which he did in a report to Mrwebi on November 24. Roelofse notes: “Smith, in his report to Advocate Mrwebi, made it clear that the matter cannot be withdrawn due to strength of the state’s case. In fact, he stated he is considering adding a new charge.”

      On November 28 Mwrebi informed Smith that he was not satisfied with his response. He then requested access to the actual docket and on December 4 — a Sunday — issued a memorandum instructing Smith to withdraw the case.

      Mrwebi’s view was that the police did not have the mandate to investigate abuses of the secret fund as this falls within the purview of the inspector general of intelligence.

      Roelofse states: “It was established that Advocate L Mrwebi already informed Lieutenant General Mdluli of his decision prior to him informing the prosecutor, Advocate Smith. Neither was the SAPS consulted in the decision made by Mwrebi.”

      Smith’s supervisor, Glynnis Breytenbach, and senior legal colleagues from the NPA and SAPS took Mrwebi’s memo to Jay Govender, legal adviser to the inspector general of intelligence.

      According to Roelofse, “Govender again reiterated that the office of the inspector general of intelligence is not mandated to conduct criminal investigations”.

      Breytenbach and NPA colleague Sibongile Mzinyathi went back to Mrwebi, but he refused to reconsider his decision.

      Roelofse states he understood it was agreed the case would be withdrawn only provisionally — which was done on December 14 — and so he was surprised to discover in early February that Mrwebi had written to Mdluli’s lawyers informing them that the withdrawal of charges was final and not provisional.

      This letter was never presented to the investigation team.

      Breytenbach was suspended in May this year, a week after submitting a comprehensive challenge to Mrwebi’s decision to acting national director of prosecutions Nomcebo Jiba. The NPA insists it is standing by Mrwebi’s decision and has denied Breytenbach’s suspension has anything to do with the Mdluli matter. It is accusing Breytenbach of “abusing her power” in another case.

 

  • Mrwebi’s withdrawal of charges and the strategy of shifting the responsibility to investigate to the inspector general of intelligence had a dramatic effect on the investigation.

    Roelofse states that on February 13 he was informed by Dramat to halt the investigations immediately.

    “Lieutenant General Mkhwanazi gave this instruction to Lieutenant General A Dramat on February 8 2012. Colonel K Roelofse was further instructed not to hand over the relevant case dockets to the NPA. This instruction was apparently given pending the outcome of the formal request to the office of the inspector general of intelligence.”

    Roelofse says Dramat was ordered by Mkhwanazi to remove him and other Hawks members from the investigation into the murder case against Mdluli because the investigation supposedly did not fall within the mandate of the Hawks.

    Roelofse reveals that police management also ordered the halting of all disciplinary matters relating to Mdluli and Lazarus and that all the relevant documents be handed to the office of the inspector general of intelligence.

    The response of the inspector general, delivered on March 19, only after Roelofse completed his report, appears to have provided a ledge for Mkhwanazi and the Hawks to find their footing. The inspector general rejected Mrwebi’s view and referred the matter back to the NPA “for the institution of criminal charges”.

    The inspector general refused to comment on allegations that she was placed under pressure after delivering this response, but the Freedom Under Law application, if it succeeds,will force all the parties to put their version before the courts.

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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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