16 April 2024 | 12:43 AM

Rendition case witness cries foul

Key Takeaways

A policeman involved in a 2010 operation, which is linked to an illegal rendition case that is being investigated, has claimed that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has sidelined him as a witness because his evidence does not implicate Hawks boss Anwa Dramat.

Warrant Officer Jacob Makoe makes the claim in a lawyer’s letter sent to the IPID executive director, Koekie Mbeki, last week.

Makoe is a member of the Hawks unit in Gauteng, which is being investigated by the police watchdog for allegedly illegally deporting four Zimbabwean men in November 2010.

Dramat, who has come under intense fire after a year-long investigation by the IPID into the alleged rendition case, appears to have been singled out as a main suspect. The increased pressure on Dramat comes amid change at the Hawks, which has readvertised his post in compliance with amended legislation. It is unclear whether Dramat will reapply for his job or not.

Last week, the Mail & Guardian reported claims made by the Gauteng Hawks boss, Lieutenant General Shadrack Sibiya (who is also a suspect in the alleged rendition case), that the Hawks are the victims of a deliberate smear campaign being led by the police’s flailing crime intelligence division.

The campaign reportedly emanates from the Hawks’ continued investigation into crime intelligence and its suspended head, Richard Mdluli.

Makoe’s letter, seen by ama­Bhungane, appears to support some claims of this conspiracy. It follows a phone call Makoe says he received from the IPID’s lead investigator on the rendition case, Innocent Khuba.

Makoe has said that Khuba was not interested in his version of events, which would vindicate Dramat.
Makoe, who works under Sibiya’s command, claims that, at the end of the call, Khuba “stated” that he would not take a witness statement from him because it “would be bad for his [Khuba’s] case”.

Bias

The implication of this, as noted in Makoe’s letter, is that Khuba was only interested in material that was “good for the case” against Dramat and Sibiya.

In the letter, Makoe’s attorneys “place on record” Makoe’s “concern about the fact that the investigating officer [Khuba] only wants to take statements from witnesses who ‘are good for this case’”.

“Our client is of the view that, based on what Mr Khuba said to him, this investigation is a one-sided investigation, an unfair one, and one that is unlawful since the investigating officer is ‘screening’ the affidavits he wants to file in the docket and has predetermined individuals he wants to have incriminated by the potential witnesses.”

According to Makoe, Khuba told him during their conversation that he was “investigating a case of rendition against General Dramat, General Sibiya and other members of SAPS”.

Rendition is illegal and involves kidnapping and transferring prisoners from one country to another.

Khuba allegedly focused on questions about the circumstances surrounding the November 2010 operation during which the Zimbabwean men were arrested. Makoe was part of it, which was carried out mostly in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg. But he claims he told Khuba that he did not know of the “arrangements regarding the taking of the detainees to Zimbabwe”.

Makoe’s lawyers, BDK Attorneys, noted that their client is “an important and relevant witness to the events that evening … he was the group leader of A-group, and had eight policemen under his command”.

Although the IPID spokesperson, Moses Dlamini, denied on Wednesday that the directorate had received Makoe’s lawyer’s letter, amaBhungane understands that it was faxed and emailed to the IPID’s head office.

Dlamini said: “Mr Khuba asked Warrant Officer Makoe to make himself available with his attorney for his warning statement to be taken. Makoe is yet to make himself available.”

Dlamini said that the investigation was “still ongoing” but the Sunday Times reported two weeks ago that a decision to arrest Dramat and “six others”, including Sibiya and Hawks Colonel Leslie “Cowboy” Maluleke, for their alleged role in the renditions was imminent.

Dramat declined to comment on the letter or the investigation.

Khuba allegedly put several questions to Makoe, including who issued instructions to take the men to Zimbabwe, who was in charge of the operation, whether Sibiya was present, whether Maluleke had declared that Dramat knew about the operation, whether Maluleke was in “telephonic communication with General Dramat during the operation” or whether he reported to Dramat in Makoe’s presence after the operation.

According to the lawyer’s letter, Makoe explained in detail to Khuba “what exactly happened prior, during and subsequent to the police operation”.

Makoe allegedly told Khuba that Maluleke was in charge of the operation and that “Maluleke was not in telephonic contact” with Dramat in Makoe’s presence. Maluleke, according to Makoe, did not “declare specifically that Dramat knew of the operation.”

Makoe also denied that Sibiya had been at the scene.

Makoe’s letter notes that Makoe “remonstrated” with Khuba and “stated that investigating officers must go after the truth rather than predetermined targets when they do investigations”.

Khuba allegedly then terminated the conversation and Makoe has not been contacted about the matter since, although the IPID claims the opposite.

But if the Hawks are facing a potentially tumultuous future, it seems so too is its rival — the embattled crime intelligence division.

This week the national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, announced that the intelligence division’s acting head, Major General Chris Ngcobo, had been placed on special leave, following revelations linked to alleged “discrepancies” in his qualifications.

Ngcobo, who was President Jacob Zuma’s bodyguard at one stage, took over the acting role from Mdluli last year.

Ngcobo is also being represented by BDK Attorneys, through the lawyer Ian Small-Smith.

Small-Smith released a statement on Ngcobo’s behalf on Tuesday in which he said Ngcobo would “gladly subject himself to any disciplinary proceedings and criminal proceedings”.

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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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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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