On Friday 6 May, President Zuma made symbolic visits to two State-Owned Enterprises that are at the heart of allegations around “state capture”: SAA and Eskom. SAA Board Chairwoman Dudu Myeni is a “close friend” of Number One and our first citizen took the time to reassure SAA staff during his walkabout at Airways Park that “we are going to work hard to ensure that we support SAA so that it can take off and reach the destinations that … we want to reach”, whatever that may mean.
However, before lift-off, SAA needs a R5bn bailout even though there are serious concerns about the SOE’s liquidity. It has also not been able to table its annual report – a basic and vital requirement for any going concern. On Friday Myeni was in high spirits though, reassuring all that “the company will be able to operate without government guarantees”.
The country anxiously awaits the day, as does the Minister of Finance, no doubt.
Just two days earlier Pravin Gordhan, during the Treasury budget debate in the National Assembly, stated that he favoured, at some stage, a minority partner buying into the airline. During the same debate, Deputy Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas (he who scorned the Guptas and then snitched on them), categorically stated that the financially-strapped SAA would only receive the money it needed once a new board was in place. Morse code for “Myeni’s got to go”.
Gordhan and the Treasury have been sending out strong smoke signals that state-owned enterprises needed to stop operating and behaving as if they enjoyed protection from someone very special, and that their tendencies to “do things they’re not supposed to” was a display of “arrogance and belligerence”.
So, what has this all got to do with forensic investigator and Selebi-slayer Paul O’Sullivan? All in good time, people, all in good time.
Some of the background to the charges O’Sullivan now faces along with Kalawe and Mbulawa is set out in a 25-page sworn statement the investigator lodged with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) on 4 May, the same day Gordhan was blasting Denel and SAA in the National Assembly.
The Irish-born investigator was inserted into this strand of the sprawling narrative when “on or about 25 February 2015” while he was in Geneva (Switzerland) he received an e-mail from the then CEO of SAA, Kalawe, that in O’Sullivan’s words “purported to implicate the Chairman of SAA, a certain Ms Dudu Myeni as being investigated by Interpol in Europe in respect of certain bank accounts”.
O’Sullivan immediately sent an e-mail to Myeni (calling on her dramatically to resign “by sunset”) and which included a grainy black and white scan of four pages of bank statements. He copied in various parties including ENS Attorneys “as I believed the matter to be in the public interest, (bearing in mind that since Myeni and/or a fellow director of SAA Adv Lindi Nkosi Thomas had about a year earlier, through a 3rd party, attempted to procure that I should purchase the cellular phone records and bank statements of three directors of SAA). I also copied certain journalists, in the hope that the matters might be exposed,” said O’Sullivan.
A while later, back in his Geneva hotel room, O’Sullivan received an e-mail from an unnamed journalist with “clear quality colour PDF copies of the same documents” which he immediately sent to SAPS in South Africa, calling for an investigation as “on face value the document looked genuine in all respects.”
Later still the journalist again contacted O’Sullivan to ask whether he could verify the authenticity of the documents.
“Within 30 minutes, I had satisfied myself that the documents were possibly fake. I therefore decided to send out a further mail, to the same recipients of the earlier mail, which included the acting head of the Hawks, Major-General Ntlemeza and the national commissioner of Police, General Phiyega. I asked that no further action be taken, as I suspected the documents. I sent out a further e-mail about an hour or so later. In this mail I made it clear that the documents were indeed fake and were therefore an elaborate hoax by a third force,” said O’Sullivan.
In March that year O’Sullivan opened a docket at the Bramley police station as he had, “following an intensive investigation”, identified the person who had manufactured the fake Interpol report. The suspect was Abednego Mbulawa, “a senior ANC member, employed as a Chief Operating Officer with a West Gauteng city council and with intelligence connections. At this stage, I even considered the possibility that a trap had been set for me,” said O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan then apologised to Myeni and offered financial compensation.
Here’s where things get complicated.
In his statement, O’Sullivan says Lieutenant-General Vinesh Moonoo (one of the senior SAPS officers he had been investigating and against whom he has laid charges) “got his hands on the mail I sent to Phiyega, because I later found that he had been pushing Vlok [A warrant officer] to get stuck in and make something out of the matter, in the hope it could be used against me”.
O’Sullivan says Kalawe had been instrumental in helping him identify the suspects and that he had supplied a copy of the docket to SAA’s attorneys “as it clearly also identified directors of SAA in unlawful conduct, in that Advocate Lindi Nkosi-Thomas and/or Myeni, had attempted to unlawfully procure the purchase of the cellular phone records and bank statements of three board members of SAA, Andile Khumalo, Carol Roskruge and CEO, Monwabisi Kalawe.”
In February 2014 Nkosi-Thomas resigned as an SAA director amid soap-operaesque allegations of bitter infighting and spying by SAA management on board members. The allegations arose in January when Myeni had flagged an internal whistleblower’s report with directors.
In 2015, after the fake Interpol evidence, about 30 cops raided O’Sullivan’s office, confiscating computers, cellphones and memory sticks. Police were later ordered by the court to return these; the court had been misled with regard to the issuing of the warrant.
In his statement to IPID O’Sullivan says, “I wish to mention that the then CEO of SAA, a certain Monwabisi Kalawe, was in the process of undergoing disciplinary action against him, which had been initiated by the Chairman of SAA, Ms Dudu Myeni. There can be no doubt that the underlying reason for Myeni wanting to get rid of Kalawe was that he introduced checks and balances into the procurement process for SAA to acquire new wide-bodied aircraft. Myeni therefore wasted millions of rand in public funds in order to intimidate and chastise Kalawe, until eventually Kalawe threw in the proverbial towel and accepted a golden handshake and left SAA.”
And so it is that O’Sullivan now finds himself with Kalawe and Mbulawa, facing charges of extortion, intimidation, fraud, forgery and uttering.
O’Sullivan had hoped on Monday to make a bail application during which his legal team, led by Barry Roux, would have questioned Mokotedi about the manner of O’Sullivan’s arrest on 1 April when he was dragged off a London-bound plane.
O’Sullivan has remained a high-profile thorn in the side of many powerful and highly-placed individuals who have coagulated around President Jacob Zuma. The Hawks, one of his targets, are not going to take it lying down and are expected to slap O’Sullivan with a long list of charges, including espionage, to keep him occupied in the country’s courts.
The Hawks and IPID appear to be ignoring, however, the serious charges by O’Sullivan that senior police – retired and currently employed – are involved with underworld figures.
As the dangerous game plays out in the country’s courts, which have been turned into a legal gambling hall, those with hidden hands will no doubt eventually be flushed out. DM
Photo: Paul O’Sullivan (Sally Shorkend for Maverick magazine)
In other news...
South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.
On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.
And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.
However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.
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