There is just no other way to view the scandal which has been completely overshadowed by the unpacking of the industrial scale of corruption under Zuma’s watch and that is now playing out on a screen near you as the Zondo Commission of Inquiry picks through political debris years in the making.
Like the destructive borer beetle slowly hollowing out the soul of a tall, proud tree, the actions of these deployees to Crime Intelligence and other state departments have not only caused irreparable damage to the ANC’s once illustrious reputation, but have undermined democracy itself.
It is, in effect, an act of political cannibalism.
Of course the chain of command or the paper trail of who exactly it was that gave the order for “Operation Hibela” — as the plan to swing the ANC’s elective conference Manguang in 2012 in favour of Jacob Zuma was known — is unlikely to be revealed. It’s always those lower in the pecking order who pay.
The revelations that Crime Intelligence’s Captain KGB Tshabalala and Warrant Officer “Pope” Maluleke, through Operation Hibela, were more than willing to do the dirty factional work of the ANC and Jacob Zuma in particular are not new. That there has not been a revolt or statement from the ANC itself points to a peculiar condition of not making eye contact with unpleasantries in the hope that voters might forget.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has reported back to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts about the deep-rooted rot in SAPS on several previous occasions.
At one such presentation a Scopa committee member remarked that the collusion between pubic officials and corrupt suppliers could be likened to the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652 when “the country was sold for trinkets”.
Only now the country is being sold for luxury cars, houses and flat-screen TVs.
The huge amounts that have been allegedly lost or misspent through irregular contracts and corruption in SAPS — R96-million in the Phahlane and Crimetech and Kriminalistick matter, around R5-billion with regard to Keith Keating’s FDA and its dealings with SAPS; and the three amounts, R50-million for the ANC’s 53rd conference, R45-million to swing the 54th and a further R53-million for a “software package” — are rendered tame on paper or in a PowerPoint presentation.
IPID’s investigations into this abuse by SAPS employees are not a thumbsuck. There are bank statements, there is video footage, forensic reports and other documents to back up what has been brought to light.
The scope of the betrayal, and the damage it has caused, is staggering.
A report titled State of Procurement Spent in National and Provincial Departments, tabled by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene in Parliament in April, showed that the SAPS is the largest procurer among national departments, responsible for R17.8-billion of the R79-billion spent on procurement nationally in the 2016/17 financial year.
Such large sums of public money always attract feeders along the chain who at first believe they will get away with it as long as fellow feeders get to benefit personally.
Take the case of Lieutenant General Adeline Shezi, now on suspension on full pay, for example.
Shezi, who was the head of SAPS Technology Management Services (TMS) in July 2015, asked Alta Nel, of Doron Construction, to conduct extensive renovations at her home.
Doron Construction quoted R1,399,263.18 for the job, which Shezi immediately accepted. Later Shezi was only able to pay R615,513.72 of the quoted amount and “struggled to secure the remaining amount to cover the total cost of the renovation,” IPID told Scopa on Tuesday.
The directorate said that Shezi then turned to a SAPS service provider, Intsika IT Solutions, who paid R793,104.75 in three tranches into Doron Construction’s account in one day.
In the meantime, IPID said on Tuesday that a link had been found between Intsika and Keith Keating’s Forensic Data Analysts (FDA) of more than R20-million payments “at the time when General Shezi received the benefit and or performed certain functions administratively to the benefit of both Intsika and FDA”.
Scopa also heard this week that in spite of Keating’s company being implicated in irregular contracts with the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) and SAPS to the value of R5-billion, his Solve Forensics had been awarded the contract to provide DNA kits to SAPS.
Asked by Scopa DA member Tim Brauteseth whether IPID was aware of the new contract, head of investigations Mathew Sesoko replied in the affirmative.
While former acting Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane might have found some space to breathe after the provisional withdrawal in June of charges of fraud, money laundering and corruption in relation to kickbacks in the form of renovations, TVs and cars from suppliers while he was head of SAPS forensics, the former top cop is about to be recharged, said Sesoko.
Further suspects, including Keating, Shezi, Brigadier Sydney Masuku, a Lieutenant Colonel Patrick, Billy Smit and Phahlane’s sister, Josephine Phahlane, would be added to the list.
Scopa also learnt on Tuesday that IPID was investigating former Divisional Commissioner of supply chain management and Deputy National Commissioner of management intervention, Gary Kruser, who left SAPS in February this year.
At a farewell banquet for Kruser, National Commissioner Khehla Sitole had this to say “It was an honour and privilege to work with you. I have no doubt that as you move into a new era of your lives, that you will make a positive and lasting impact on everyone you come in contact with as you did in the SAPS. Your career has been nothing short of inspirational and your work ethics nothing short of motivational, and you will always be remembered for that.”
Kruser has, according to IPID, now joined forces with Keating’s FDA and is currently involved in supplying Rofin laser products to the Namibian police. The arrangement is being investigated.
Kruser, while still employed by SAPS, has been accused by IPID of approving “exorbitant maintenance and support” contracts with FDA in return for plane tickets.
In January this year Crime Intelligence employee, Morris “KGB” Tshabalala, who was convicted for armed robbery in 1996 but instead of serving his sentence managed to slip free of the coils of justice, appeared in the Commericial Crimes Court in Pretoria court on charges of fraud, theft and corruption.
Tshabalala was implicated in a R200-million heist at OR Tambo International Airport in 2013 and was arrested on another theft matter in 2013.
At his court appearance in January state prosecutor Chris Smith revealed that Tshabalala had also headed an intelligence operation at Mangaung and had been given a R50-million budget, which had not been accounted for.
“In 2012, he was appointed as the head of an operation named Rapid Deployment Intelligence. The operation was established to conduct intelligence work for [the] Mangaung 53rd ANC conference which took place in December 2012,” Smith told the court.
The “intelligence” work is suspected to be the paying of bribes to factional slates in the ANC.
With regard to the ANC’s 54th conference at Nasrec, IPID on Tuesday told Scopa that in December 2017 it has received a tip-off that R45-million would be redirected to a supplier, Brainwave, trading as I-View Integrated Systems.
“The amount was alleged to be for the payment of a Grabber system which is valued at between R7 and R10-million,” said IPID.
The money directed to I-View, however, said IPID, “was in fact to be laundered for the buying of votes at the ANC conference”. An investigation confirmed that the transaction was being “pushed at all costs”. IPID had contacted General Sitole and had asked for the payment to be stopped.
Video footage had been obtained of a meeting between SAPS officials and the supplier.
Hindering this investigation at present, said Sekoko, is the unwillingness of SAPS to declassify documents related to R45-million I-View procurement.
Sesoko said the matter was not about sensitive intelligence matters, but about procurement and that classifying documents could not be used as an excuse to hide potential criminality.
“The investigations are at an advanced stage, but delayed by the unwillingness of SAPS to declassify documents despite the advice of the Inspector General of Intelligence,” said Sesoko.
IPID had applied for a section 205 subpoena compelling SAPS to declassify these documents and to appear before it, but SAPS is challenging this in court.
“We are confident that even in this instance judgment will be in our favour,” Sesoko told Scopa.
The thing about the borer beetle is that while it enjoys the succulent innards of the wood or the tree, eventually the organism that has sustained it dies. It teeters and falls and eventually fades to nothing. Years later, only a few will remember where the old tree stood. DM