For years, Paul O’Sullivan made it his personal mission to expose the corruption of former top cop Jackie Selebi. Now the Irish-South African is focusing on Selebi’s cronies. GREG NICOLSON sat with the eccentric investigator, a pistol at his hip and bags under his eyes, to talk about former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and SA's police leadership.
Daily Maverick: You were instrumental in bringing Jackie Selebi to justice. Are you trying to do the same with Richard Mdluli?
O’Sullivan: Mdluli was always part of the clique so he should have gone down years ago when Selebi went down.
DM: Are you still trying then?
O’Sullivan: Absolutely, by bringing public attention to what Mdluli’s been up to. He’s a dishonest person. He’s a crook. He doesn’t belong in the police service. He hasn’t belonged in the police service since he decided to bend over backwards and break the law to help Jackie Selebi get off the hook. He failed there…
DM: How did he avoid prosecution?
O’Sullivan: I guess with the shutting down of the Scorpions, it was like, where do you stop? And I guess they just decided to chop all the bad guys at the top off. A lot of people got away with murder in the Selebi matter. You have people like Selebi’s spokes-persons, who are still in the police today, and they stood up and repeatedly lied for Selebi.
Now, if a police officer lies to protect criminals they don’t belong in the police service. You have a situation where Mdluli actually attacked my integrity. He attacked the witnesses that I hunted down. He was having them arrested and dragged off to his office. And then he was interrogating them, wanting to know what they were discussing with me and then telling them to stay away from me. And he expected to stay in the police.
In fact, what happened is he did stay in the police and he got promoted. And it was Selebi that had him promoted while he was on suspension. So Selebi was trying to pave the way for his continued control over the police while he was still on suspension and the guys at the top, they allowed it to happen and they should be ashamed of themselves… You had these cops assisting gangsters.
Lawrence Mrwebi (now head of the NPA’s specialised commercial crimes unit) made false statements to help Jackie Selebi. I can’t understand why Mrwebi hasn’t been suspended. Instead he’s been promoted. That man should not be near any case. That man should not be making any decisions and the same goes for (Nomgcobo Jiba, now acting national director of public prosecutions).
Jiba should be fired. She should be put on the street. Instead of defending the Constitution, those two have attacked it by quietly squashing criminal charges against Mdluli. I’m not just interested in putting Mdluli behind bars. I’d actually like to see them go behind bars. They defeated the means of justice. They have protected a criminal in very much the same way they did with Selebi.
Somebody should be saying, “Hey you! Come sit down at this table and explain what you’re doing. Not only did you try and protect Selebi but you conspired together with (Mulangi) Mphego and Mdluli in that. And now suddenly you’re protecting the leftovers, the Selebi leftovers?”
I think what (the police and NPA) need to do now is finish what I started. They need to finish every single person that was appointed by Selebi in a position of rank or importance in the police. They need to take out their chequebooks, write out a cheque, and get rid of them. If they’ve done something wrong, fire them or prosecute them criminally.
In the case of people like Mdluli, they need to take every person that he appointed in the police and reverse those appointments as being unlawful. And if it means they have to pay those people out they should do the same. We do not want the criminal family members of Mdluli working in crime intelligence. They need to have a cancer-cleaning exercise. If you leave rotten apples in the barrel you’ll never get a bountiful harvest. They need to remove all this rubbish. And you know what, now is as good a time as any to do it.
DM: Why now?
O’Sullivan: Because it’s not been done. Now that we’re focusing our attention on these matters, let’s focus on all of these other things. Let’s pull all the skeletons out of the closet and on to the table. Let’s fire Jiba. Let’s fire Mrwebi. Do they really think now they can scuttle off into the corner and hope the storm will miss them? I’m telling them now the storm will not miss them… They have to go. They have to go.
DM: Even if we clear the bad apples out of the SAPS and NPA, there are suggestions from the Mdluli case that politicians have benefited from the secret slush fund and have interfered. How deep does this thing go and how do we remedy it?
O’Sullivan: In Ireland we have a saying – “the devil that tempts is as bad as the devil that does”. As long as you’ve got crooked cops that are prepared to do the bidding of politicians, whether they’re ANC or DA or whatever… you’ll always have politicians seeking out those crooked cops. So the place to start is in the police service.
Let’s be fair about it. What are politicians? They’re born liars. It’s their job to lie… You expect politicians to lie. The world over they do it.
DM: Do you buy the idea that Mdluli committed himself to supporting Zuma’s attempt to win another term as ANC president?
O’Sullivan: Absolutely. And five years ago he would have arrested Zuma for (Thabo) Mbeki. He wasn’t interested in supporting Zuma. He was interested in lining his own pocket and pretending to support whoever he’s got to support to stay in power. He went from being a loyal Selebi supporter to simultaneously being a loyal Mbeki supporter and then when he picked up (wire taps between senior police and prosecutors) he said: “Uh huh, this is going to be worth more to me in the hands of Zuma than in the hands of Mbeki.”
Mdluli wanted to become the king. Clearly the man had delusions of grandeur. He felt that in a year and a half he could swipe R5-million from the secret services account and then employ family members. He was turning crime intelligence into a small family-owned business, wasn’t he? All these family members were paid for doing nothing.
They should take his house off him, the one the state was renting off him. They should take it and make all that money be paid back. In the same way they should take Selebi’s house, which I believe they are going to do. These criminals should not be left with money when they get out of prison. They must start back at the bottom where they began. As long as you continue rewarding people for committing crime, you will always have crime.
DM: Mdluli has claimed the allegations against him are a part of a racist conspiracy and has implicated you as a part of that plot.
O’Sullivan: Everybody that knows me knows I haven’t got a racist bone in my body. It just so happens that some of the cops involved in the investigation against him are white. I’m completely apolitical… Certainly, I’m not involved in any racist plot.
DM: In the last week we’ve seen the acting national police commissioner suspend Mdluli and the public protector has announced she’ll start preliminary investigations. Are these signs that things are changing and Mdluli’s actions will be scrutinised?
O’Sullivan: I’ve always believed that the system works. Look at Selebi. I was telling people in 2002 that he was corrupt. It took me until 2010 to prove it. So the system does work and that’s proof that the system works, that he was caught and he was fired. It’s proof that the system works that Mdluli was suspended and investigated and now there’s been a report done. It’s proof that the system works that Mdluli has eventually been re-suspended.
The breakdowns in the system that resulted in him being reinstated in the first place need to be analysed (as well as) the dirty prosecutors that decided to drop charges against him and then threaten others to drop charges.
Where did they dream up this idea that the inspector general for intelligence had the sole responsibility of investigating crime in relation to secret service funds? The inspector general of intelligence doesn’t even have an investigative capability. What they were doing was shoving the ball into a court where there would be no result and then internally saying: “We can’t investigate this. It’s outside of our jurisdiction.”
Absolute crap. And everybody who subscribed to that notion should be labelled as guilty and they should be fired because that’s effectively what got (Mdluli) back in his job.
He very nearly brought the South African police to its knees. And those from the NPA that assisted Mdluli to get back in, they very nearly brought the police to its knees. And if you bring the police in this country to its knees, you bring the country to its knees. That’s treasonable. DM
Photo: Paul O'Sullivan. Sally Shorkend/Maverick magazine.