24 July 2024 | 05:01 AM

SAPS spy chiefs purged

Key Takeaways

The troubled police Crime Intelligence Service (CIS) has undergone a major purge in the past two weeks, with acting national police commissioner Major General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi suspending one general and “redeploying” four others.

This means that every general in the service, except statistician Chris de Kock, has been booted out of the division. Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola, formerly the head of the police’s VIP protection unit, has been made its acting head.

The Mail & Guardian understands that the shake-up has also spread to other police units and the redeployment of more high-ranking police officers can be expected.

The moves in crime intelligence, from what the M&G understands, flow from an ongoing Hawks investigation into alleged nepotism and the abuse of state funds and resources, particularly the CIS’s secret services account.

One source claimed that Mkhwanazi was “asserting his authority and taking action against corruption”.

However, a second crime intelligence insider described the purge as “another battle altogether” — one that had more to do with political power and “control of the [secret CIS] account towards Mangaung”.

Another source with links to crime intelligence said it was “definitely political”.

To date, the following CIS and other police officers have been suspended or shipped elsewhere:

  • Major General Solly Lazarus, the service’s chief financial officer, was suspended on Monday last week.

No reasons have been given, but the move is believed to be linked to a Hawks investigation into the abuse of crime intelligence’s secret services account. The fund has allegedly been used as a private slush fund by senior officers.

Lazarus would not comment when contacted last week, and this week he could not be contacted.



  • Intelligence co-ordinator Major General Mark Hankel has been moved to the inspectorate division, described as “the graveyard of the police service”.


Hankel was a key information manager, but the M&G revealed last month that the South African Police Service’s counter-intelligence division had raised queries about the validity of his top-secret security clearance.



  • The acting divisional commissioner of crime intelligence, Major General Vele Matshatshe, has also been moved to the inspectorate, whereas the little-known Major General Khosi Sinthumile has been deployed to the visible policing unit.




  • Brigadier Banzi Nyanda, who headed crime intelligence’s operational response and border policing units, has also been shifted to the inspectorate division.




  • Last Friday Mkhwanazi sent a letter to Lieutenant General Gary Kruser, the divisional commissioner of supply-chain management, to inform him that he would be suspended.


One police source linked this move to the Special Investigating Unit’s probe of supply-chain management irregularities in the building and renovation of police stations worth more than R330-million, as part of a larger investigation into corruption of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster.



  • Major General Mzondeki “Sean” Tshabalala, head of the police’s information and system management unit, has also been moved to the inspectorate division.



In a statement last week, police spokesperson Major General Nonkululeko Mbatha said: “The management of the South African Police Service has taken a decision to redeploy the crime intelligence management with effect from Monday, November 28 2011. This follows internal processes and interventions that needed to be expedited objectively, hence the interim redeployment of members in this regard.”

Two months ago a senior state advocate with insight into the Hawks investigation told the M&G that the purpose of the investigation was “to clean out crime intelligence”, starting with its most senior members.

In September, murder accused and suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli was arrested with Colonel Hein Barnard, the supply-chain manager for the division’s secret services account.

The charges against them are linked to a discount allegedly solicited last year to pay a shortfall on Mdluli’s private car.

Mdluli has dismissed the claims as part of a politically inspired witch-hunt. He was arrested earlier this year for murder and defeating the ends of justice for his alleged involvement in the 1999 killing of Oupa Ramogibe, who allegedly received threats after he married Mdluli’s former lover.

Mdluli has claimed that people were “trying to get rid of him” because former president Thabo Mbeki’s camp was trying to take over police intelligence ahead of the ANC’s conference in Mangaung next year.

His lawyer, Ike Motloung, has described the allegations of fraud and corruption against Mdluli as “a joke” and part of ongoing attempts to frame him.


Lazarus, who is understood to have had a close relationship with Mdluli, is believed to have been on the Hawks’ radar for some time in connection with the unit’s investigation into the abuse of millions of rands held in the secret services account.

The current value of the secret services account is unclear, but several crime intelligence sources believe it is worth “billions of rands”. Others have said that intelligence’s share of the budget runs between R200-million and R400-million a year.

Crime intelligence was allocated R2-billion from the police budget for the 2011-2012 financial year.

The M&G has previously quoted intelligence sources who claimed that the secret services account, used for covert operations, source payments and safe houses, was, to some extent, a “black” fund used not only for personal gain but also to fund politically motivated action.

Last year the Sunday Independent alleged that Mdluli and Lazarus had been accused of abusing the fund.

Unconfirmed newspaper reports claimed that Mdluli was behind the registration of girlfriends and relatives as paid intelligence sources or employees.

Mysterious robbery

Lazarus’s downfall is apparently linked to a directive from Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to investigate a robbery in which R2.2-million was taken at gunpoint from two crime intelligence officers outside a branch of Absa bank in Johannesburg in October.

City Press reported that the money that was stolen was meant for crime intelligence’s secret fund.

Mthethwa told Parliament in November that the police were investigating why the two officers had the money in the first place and why they were not adequately guarded.

A Hawks source told the M&G that Lazarus told the officers to refuse to take a polygraph test that the Hawks wanted to administer as part of their investigation.

The M&G believes that both Hankel and Nyanda are fighting their redeployment and are expected to make representations to Mkhwanazi about why they should stay at crime intelligence.

Kruser, who was appointed head of supply-chain management after Lieutenant General Hamilton Hlela resigned when news of the police lease scandal broke last year, is also expected to petition Mkhwanazi on why he should not be suspended.

He would not comment, although he confirmed that he had received a suspension letter on Friday.

However, a source with insight into the police’s procurement procedures said the expenditure being investigated by the Special Investigating Unit had been incurred before Kruser’s time.

The main players affected by the purge

The senior officers who have been suspended or sidelined, apparently as a result of the Hawks investigation, are mostly not well known to the public but are powerful figures in the South African Police Service. They include:

  • Major General Solly Lazarus, chief financial officer of the crime intelligence service, who hails from KwaZulu-Natal. He is understood to have been close to murder accused and former CIS head Richard Mdluli.

A private crime intelligence bugging company, based in Pretoria, lists Lazarus, redeployed Brigadier Banzi Nyanda and former crime intelligence boss Mulange Mphego as directors. It may form part of the Hawks investigation.



  • Intelligence co-ordinator Major General Mark Hankel, previously thought to have been a Mdluli man, is now understood to be helping the Hawks with their investigation of crime intelligence.


Last month the M&G reported on a statement in 2010 by police polygraph expert Lieutenant Colonel Josiah Maponyane that describes how, in May 2002, Hankel twice failed polygraph tests required for top-secret clearance.

Saying that he felt pressured by his superiors, Maponyane made an “inconclusive” finding, allowing Hankel to retain his clearance.

His explanation was allegedly that he was a security police source while studying at Fort Hare in 1985, who gave information that contributed to the abduction and disappearance of activist Matthew Goniwe.

But Hankel did not attend Fort Hare and it appears that the questions put to him during the test related to the previous five years.

Hankel testified in the corruption trial of former police national commissioner Jackie Selebi that two police officers had removed a file from crime intelligence containing documents from the British authorities relating to allegations of drug trafficking against Glenn Agliotti.

Selebi allegedly showed Agliotti the documents.



  • Major General Mzondeki “Sean” Tshabalala is perceived to have been close to Selebi. He was shifted by suspended police national commissioner general Bheki Cele from his position as head of the VIP protection unit in June last year to head the information and system management unit of the police.


Tshabalala, a bodyguard of former president Thabo Mbeki, came under the spotlight after crashing his car into a police patrol van in 2008 while driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty to a drunk-driving charge and was fined R20 000.



  • Lieutenant General Gary Kruser, the divisional commissioner of supply-chain management, joined the police as head of the national protection services in 1995 after receiving amnesty from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for ordering the Shell House shootings in 1994, in which eight Inkatha Freedom Party members were killed and 84 injured.


At the time Kruser was Umkhonto weSizwe’s deputy head of security.

— Sally Evans

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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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