EDITORIAL

To rebuild South Africa’s investigative capacity, disband Hawks

By Daily Maverick 24 June 2019
Caption
Illustrative image sources: Omar Flores/Unsplash / Pexels / Hawks logo

The ANC’s 2007 resolution to disband the Scorpions, leading to the 2008 establishment of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (the Hawks) by the Zuma administration, was always intended to provide a soft landing for the politically connected and the habitually corrupt. It succeeded in that mission, beyond their wildest dreams. That’s why, for South Africa to have any chance of survival, it needs to be disbanded. Now.

But first: Make no mistake, Daily Maverick is not accusing the entire Hawks team of being a willing part of State Capture. However, the organisation itself has been so thoroughly compromised that it would take too many years to fix. Those are the years that South Africa cannot afford to waste. Not any more.

If we are serious about combating industrial-scale corruption within the state and private sector (evidence of which is now firmly in the public realm) and the serious threat this poses to national security, the economic health of the country and its citizens, the hopelessly contaminated Hawks must be disbanded. There will be no tears.

Suspend and discipline those who have been named (the current leadership is, in fact, in violation of its own disciplinary regulations and codes by not acting) and redeploy the fit, competent and committed in the Hawks to the NPA’s new Investigative Directorate, headed by advocate Hermione Cronje.

This “investigative” bird is so sick that it has not been able to rouse itself enough to investigate the mounds of evidence about State Capture and the role of Cabinet ministers, elected officials and others in looting state coffers. It is unsurprising that the conviction rate for the Hawks dropped by 83% since it replaced the Scorpions.

And the fact that the Hawks still have a nest within SAPS is not helping. SAPS itself is riddled with predators who have for decades looted public funds for personal enrichment.

Just last week, on 18 June 2019, Daily Maverick exposed that Colonel Sthembiso “Welcome” Mhlongo, who has been implicated in testimony to the Zondo commission by both former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johann Booysen and former NPA head Mzolisi Nxasana for colluding with criminals, was appointed in April 2019 to the top job as acting provincial commander of Serious Organised Crime in KZN.

Mhlongo has been accused of tipping off KZN businessman and Zuma associate Thoshan Panday, who was being “investigated” by Mhlongo over about R60-million worth of inflated contracts between his company, Gold Coast Trading, and the SAPS in relation to a 2010 Fifa World Cup tender.

Mhlongo, Nxasana testified, had been tasked by the disgraced and then-acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, to dig up dirt on Nxasana in order to ensure his swift departure from the post which she herself had eyed for years.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi claimed that Booysen had testified to the Zondo Commission on 17 April, while Mhlongo had been appointed to the crucial post on 5 April.

It appears to have escaped Mulaudzi and Hawks leadership that Mhlongo was still acting in the position on 18 June — two months later — when we sent our query. Either no one within the organisation is paying attention to the live broadcasts of the Zondo Commission, or the leadership is being willfully obstructive.

There are just too many of former illegally appointed Hawks head Mthandazo Ntlemeza’s cronies still in the system for it to fulfil its mandate to the citizens of South Africa.

In fact, spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi himself was brought in by Ntlemeza.

Soon after then Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko illegally appointed Ntlemeza in 2015 to head the Hawks, he immediately set to work, replacing eight out of nine provincial Hawks heads as well as fast-tracking about 60 promotions and appointments of his cronies. Nhleko, too, has been implicated in testimony by Robert McBride to the Zondo Commission for alleged criminality and the flouting of the country’s laws.

Booysen, testifying at the Zondo Commission, said that “all hell broke loose” in the Hawks after Ntlemeza’s appointment.

When general Ntlemeza became the head of the Hawks, he hijacked the whole promotional system of the Hawks. All the posts that were advised within the Hawks were dealt with from his office.” (In the end, the cost of vexatious litigation against Booysen alone cost taxpayers R1.71-million.)

It was Ntlemeza who appointed General Prince Mokotedi, who once tweeted that he was “100% Jacob Zuma”. Mokotedi in 2014 resigned as the head of the NPA’s integrity unit after being charged with “gross insubordination and bringing the NPA into disrepute”.

Mokotedi replaced former Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya. In December 2018, Mokotedi was “redeployed” to SAPS headquarters, where he still lingers.

Ntlemeza appointed Major-General Kholekile Galawe to the Northern Cape in January 2016. In March 2019, Galawe was exposed by the UK’s Channel 4 News, of having multiple meetings with Brexit financier Arron Banks who had offered Galawe R20-million in property deals in exchange for the top cop pursuing a criminal case against Banks’ estranged business partner Chris Kimber.

According to Channel 4, Galawe had sought “working capital” for two big developments in Bay Ridge in Port Elizabeth and Mthatha Cosmo in Mthatha.

In January 2016 Ntlemeza appointed Major-General Nyameko Nogwanya to head the Hawks in the Eastern Cape. Nogwanya was suspended on charges of sexual harassment in August 2017 and resigned in October 2018.

The point is, back in 2013 when the position for Hawks head became available Ntlemeza didn’t apply for the job.

He was instead parachuted in from a low-key position as deputy provincial police commissioner in Limpopo. The panel that in 2015 selected The Bern, an old apartheid cop, included Nhleko, then Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha and then Minister of State Security David Mahlobo.

Nhleko had, in 2013 already, ignored a short-list of five highly qualified candidates including Major-General Oswald Reddy (a Harvard graduate) and Lieutenant-General Dr Godfrey Lebeya (the current head of the Hawks). Nhleko also ignored his constitutional duty for more than a year to inform Parliament that Ntlemeza had been appointed.

Ntlemeza worked with a network of captured rogue members of SAPS and Crime Intelligence to target not only Cabinet ministers such as Pravin Gordhan, but other officials including Robert McBride, Ivan Pillay and many others. While billions were siphoned from state coffers by the Guptas and other Zuma-related radical economic transformation cronies, the Hawks stood by, seemingly paralysed.

Even when in 2017 the #GuptaLeaks put the entire truth about the damage Zuma, the Guptas and their willing executioners have wrought beyond any reasonable doubt/plausible deniability barrier, the Hawks did absolutely nothing. Later, in March 2019, Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya, an advocate with a doctorate in law and whose appointment to head the Hawks nine months earlier had been roundly lauded, told MPs that the Hawks had sat for up to three years on a stack of State Capture cases involving Eskom, Transnet, the Guptas and others.

Briefing MPs on a range of institutional issues, Lebeya hinted that “we have seconded a colonel to sit in with the (Zondo) commission so we don’t miss anything…”

Lebeya said that the Hawks’ relationship with new NPA head Shamila Batohi was “good”. He said he had seconded his deputy to work with the NPA on the establishment of the new prosecutions directorate for State Capture, now headed by Cronje.

But 16 months after Zuma was discarded as president, it is now obvious that it is almost impossible to undo the damage caused to the Hawks by the likes of Ntlemeza and his cronies. Disbanding it will provide a real opportunity to evaluate the performances, particularly of those promoted and appointed by Ntlemeza.

A clean slate would be the only way to ensure that the still-active remnants of the predatory elite do not return to finish off the spoils, do not escape the law without repaying what was stolen or get off scot-free to continue living their best lives on public funds. DM

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