This is not the first time that the story of the vicious cabal which infiltrated the Police Ministry, the SAPS, the DPCI, the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence, SARS and NPA – and which has set South Africa’s democratic project back decades – has been told.
Local bookshop shelves groan with works of investigative non-fiction detailing the gory details of Jacob Zuma’s State Capture project from, Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers to Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s Republic of Gupta and Gangster State, to Booysen’s own biography, penned with Jessica Pitchford, Blood on Their Hands, to name only four.
Investigative journalists too have for over a decade exposed wide-scale fraud, corruption and political interference in criminal matters featuring the powerful and the connected.
We pretty much have the devastating picture by now, as well as a clearer idea of the identities of who in high office abused their position and trust.
The usual suspects include former SAPS national commissioner, Riah Phiyega, KZN DPP, Advocate Moipone Noko, NPA advocates Nomcgobo Jiba, Lawrence Mrwebi and Anthony Mosing as well as former Inspector General of Intelligence, the late Faith Radebe and her office.
The list is much longer but for now, for fear of a head exploding, must be contained.
That’s the good news actually.
All of this information is in the public realm with piles of evidence. Those who feel defamed or wrongly fingered have access to the courts, where they are sure to be protected.
The system works. It can take a while though. And it costs a pretty penny.
The courts worked for Robert McBride, Johan Booysen, Glynnis Breytenbach, Anwa Dramat, Shadrack Sibiya (still paying off his legal bills), Jeremy Vearey, Peter Jacobs and others suspended, set up, excommunicated and financially devastated in the process. They fought back, all the way.
There will be many more books about many more crooks in days to come.
Despite all of the information in the public realm, there is something about the impact of actively listening to an individual testify, in their own words, and adding their own small nuances and details to various threads that make up the tangled web.
Listening circumvents filters at work when the brain is engaged in reading. The ears and eyes allow one to observe an individual under pressure where true nature flits just behind the eyelids.
South Africans are spoilt for commissions of inquiry to watch. We recommend them all.
In person, Booysen revealed himself at the Zondo Commission as a consummate, trained professional, a man with nous, the smarts you need in this loveless, treacherous underworld.
A calm man with just enough self-control and insight to be able to outsmart even the most wily of politically connected grifter. Each one who has tangled with him has come off worst.
Booysen, from his testimony to Zondo, appears to share deep bonds with colleagues, subordinates and friends – people he trusts and respects.
Former IPID head Robert McBride is one of Booysen’s comrades, both men slammed into each other’s arms in their pursuit of the usual high-profile suspects.
Booysen, who started his career as a constable in 1976, calls McBride “Boss” while McBride, a former MK soldier, calls Booysen “Chief”. It’s a small, private joke between men who would have each been assigned a place in apartheid South Africa.
Both are from KZN and, as Booysen told Zondo, “He is from Wentworth, I am from Amanzimtoti, both on the wrong side of Durban.”
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo chuckled recalling McBrides’s testimony prior to Booysen’s that Booysen had phoned the IPID head one day and had called him “boss”.
“McBride said it was the first time someone had called him boss,” Zondo embroidered.
McBride and Booysen felt the same heat, each being suspended in turn by those determined to shut them down and knock them out.
Another ally Booysen mentioned to the commission is colleague, Brigadier Simon Madonsela, who had been tasked with investigating the abuse of the Crime Intelligence secret service fund in KZN.
This was one of three investigations Booysen touched on at the Zondo Commission. The first was an account of the concerted attempt at scuppering a Hawks investigation into KZN “businessman” Thoshan Panday.
Panday, conspiring with law enforcement officials, had tried to shake down over R60-million from SAPS and South African taxpayers, in turn, just in time for the 2010 World Cup.
Booysen had also inherited the “Amigos case” involving KZN legislature ANC MECs Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu. Both faced criminal charges in a matter involving a R144-million inflated contract with Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi, for water purification plants for the KZN National Health Department. But despite overwhelming evidence, NPA advocates Lawrence Mrwebi and Anthony Mosing had declined to prosecute either politician.
In 2013, acting KZN DPP head, Advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa, had been sidelined and replaced by Advocate Moipone Noko who was, at the time, facing charges of maladministration, favouritism and abuse.
Two weeks after her appointment, out of 25 fellow accused, Noko withdrew the charges against Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu only. Booysen told Judge Zondo that if Noko had considered the pile of evidence in two weeks it would have been the equivalent of “reading a bible per day, for fourteen days”.
Noko also withdrew criminal charges against the lucky Mr Panday as well as his accomplice, Colonel Navin Madhoe.
But with regard to the secret CI slush fund investigation, Brigadier Simon Madonsela was a moth heading straight into an inferno.
Acting National Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, had in 2012 ordered an investigation into the abuse of the KZN secret services account by Crime Intelligence Division Head, Richard Mdluli.
This investigation was over and above another that had been registered by the DPCI, led then by Anwa Dramat, and after a CI whistle-blower, General Mark Hankel, had compiled a report of Mdluli’s excesses.
Hankel’s report had been signed off by then-acting head of crime intelligence, Chris de Kock.
A detailed verbal briefing of the report had been given to the then Inspector-General of Intelligence, Faith Radebe, in October 2011, while the Hawks were still in hot pursuit of Mdluli. More or less the same time Gauteng Hawks head, Shadrack Sibiya, reopened a murder investigation implicating Mdluli.
Apart from buying cars and houses and financing holidays, Mdluli also appointed various family members, as well as individuals registered as “agents”, all kept afloat from the secret fund.
Booysen told Judge Zondo that many of these Mdluli-appointed agents, who were not suitably qualified, some of them with criminal records, were later employed by SAPS, many being promoted later to high rank.
Brigadier Madonsela had moved from Durban to Pretoria after his wife had taken ill and Booysen had arranged for his transfer there. One of the first investigations he had been allocated was to look into the looting of the KZN secret services account.
Booysen unpacked how Madonsela had encountered the CI’s omerta when he began asking questions. The division simply ignored Madonsela’s requests for information and documentation for a legally-authorised investigation.
“We were quite close and we are still quite close,” Booysen said of his relationship with Madonsela, adding, “He came to see me in Durban and he expressed his frustration because CI refused to make certain documents available to him to assist in the investigation.”
Booysen had advised Madonsela to apply for a Section 205 subpoena ordering the release of the information from institutions or individuals.
During one visit to Durban, Madonsela, accompanied by two other officers, a Lieutenant Zungu and a Captain Hiralal, had asked Booysen to assist, albeit not officially, with the investigation into the secret services account abuse.
“They came to my house and they showed me the docket and I asked if I could take notes from it. The docket consisted mostly of affidavits and some police documents,” Booysen told the commission.
The general said he noted the name of each witness of each statement that had been filed in the docket.
“If it was a police person then I would write the Persal [employment] number and if a private person, I would write contact details down as well as a precis of what that witness said in his statement,” he said.
Booysen said he took the notes and kept them safe.
“It was common cause in KZN that Brigadier Simon Madonsela and myself are more than colleagues. We are personal friends and he would visit my office. They knew I was assisting him and advising him in this matter,” Booysen said.
Madonsela later applied for the Section 205 for the release of the documents, but on arrival at the Pretoria court was told that a senior officer from Crime Intelligence had arrived and had told the magistrate that there was no need for the documents to be released as “an agreement” had been reached.
A lie of course.
Madonsela told Booysen how, after leaving court, he had been summoned to then-acting National Commissioner, General Lesetja Mothiba’s office. There he was informed that he should hand over “all 15 dockets relating to the investigation into the secret services fund”.
The instruction, Mothiba informed Brigadier Madonsela, had come directly from the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service at the time, General Riah Phiyega.
Surprised, Madonsela sought a second confirmation of the order with General Godfrey Lebeya, the current head of the Hawks. Lebeya stated that yes, the order for the dockets “to be taken away from him [Madonsela]” had come from Phiyega.
Madonsela’s high-level investigation had then been handed to a junior, less experienced officer, with no sane explanation.
However, an outcry over Phiyega’s order had prompted an “investigation” and it was during a visit to his son in Pretoria that Madonsela had popped in on the general to discuss this. Booysen said that during the visit Madonsela had received a phone call and had grown “very annoyed”.
“He put the phone down and I said ‘what was that about, Simon?’ and he said ‘no, he was phoned by legal services to give a statement about what had occurred there’. And he said to me, ‘General, I am gatvol’. And he told his person he is not going to make a statement,” Booysen said.
But Booysen said he had then advised Madonsela to do so. Such was the climate that Madonsela had feared that no one in SAPS would back him up. Booysen had convinced him that Lebeya would have his back, and that indeed is how it turned out.
“General Lebeya had confirmed he would support him [Madonsela] and make a statement that it was indeed Phiyega who had instructed that the dockets be removed from him,” said Booysen.
This small detail in Booysen’s testimony offers a glimmer of that which binds those who are ethical in the law enforcement cluster. They have not stood down from backing up their honest, decent colleagues and comrades.
Later, Booysen had been approached by then IPID head Robert McBride who had caught wind of the dockets Madonsela had been forced to hand over and was keen on locating these. The KZN secret services slush fund heist was right up IPID’s alley.
Booysen promised McBride that he would rattle his intelligence network. Two weeks later, a docket turned up via Lieutenant Zungu. The docket, remarked Booysen, was a pale shadow of its former incarnation.
“These were supposed to be copies of the dockets but when I saw him [Zungu] approaching I realised something was wrong because I knew the volume of the dockets before and what he was bringing to me, on face value, was less than I had seen previously.”
Booysen said he had gone through the statements and compared these with his list and every witness who had implicated Richard Mdluli and a number of other officers in the original docket.
All of these statements had been removed or sanitised from the docket, Booysen told the commission.
After noting the gaping void in the docket, Booysen deposed an affidavit describing the circumstances and listing each witness, what they had said, and then handed this with additional notes to McBride.
How long McBride would be allowed to drive the investigation would be only a matter of time. He had to go. He did. But for how long, we now ask.
Asked by Zondo as to the current status of this IPID investigation, Booysen replied, “I suspect they are still busy with it.”
Former National Commissioner Phiyega should be facing a charge of defeating the ends of justice if Booysen’s evidence is to be taken seriously. It is not known whether Phiyega intends to challenge any of the testimony implicating her in the knee-capping of an investigation that ate at the heart of the state and the ANC. DM