Until Daily Maverick made inquiries in June 2019, Colonel Sthembiso Mhlongo, implicated in serious systemic corruption in the DPCI (Hawks) by two witnesses to the Zondo Commission, had been quietly appointed to the senior position as Acting Provincial Commander for Organised Crime of the DPCI in KwaZulu-Natal.
The story we published was titled Top cop implicated in corruption by Nxasana and Booysen appointed acting head of KZN Hawks Organised Crime Unit.
It came as not much of a surprise, a while later, on 17 July 2019, when a Captain DS Govender of the Durban Central Detectives emailed this journalist that a case, Durban Central No 794/06/2019, with regard to “the theft of documents, alternate Disclosure of Information for SAPS Only” had been opened and was being investigated and that our co-operation would be appreciated.
Our response to the initial email was to inquire exactly what theft the Captain Govender might be referring to.
To which Captain Govender replied:
“I am talking about a meeting that Col Mhlongo scheduled and the said correspondence was shared to you without consent. Can you tell me who shared the SAPS correspondence with you or you can call me. Your kind assistance will be appreciated.”
To which we replied absolutely not, that we would not reveal our sources.
The document itself was an email about a scheduled meeting, which revealed that Mhlongo had been appointed to the position as he had signed off as “Acting Provincial Commander for Organised Crime”.
As a response to the request to reveal sources, SANEF issued a press release on Friday 26 July 2019.
On Monday 29 July 2019, DPCI spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi issued a public statement that SANEF and Daily Maverick had misled readers and South Africans about attempts to get us to disclose our sources in the Mhlongo story. We quote it here in full, emphasis by the Hawks:
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) has taken note of the 26 July 2019 article by the African News Agency (ANA) titled “Intimidation and bullying by authorities is on the rise – SANEF.”
The article – edited by Moses Mudzwiti – alleges among other things, the Hawks are intimidating a journalist, Marriane Thamm, to reveal her sources. This allegation is devoid of the truth.
It will be recalled that on 18 June 2019, the Daily Maverick ran an article titled “Top cop implicated in corruption by Nxasana and Booysen appointed acting head of KZN Hawks Organised Crime Unit” by Marriane Thamm. That article had serious inaccuracies and was seeking to impose its own views, presenting them as true facts.
The Daily Maverick approached the DPCI through a set of questions and they were responded to. Suffice to say the Daily Maverick did not publish all of them.
Based on the 18 June 2019 article, which clearly demonstrated that the journalist had internal communique, Colonel Sthembiso Mhlongo laid a charge in his personal capacity at the Durban Central Police Station. He did not lodge a complaint on behalf of the DPCI.
It is regrettable that the comments by SANEF are inaccurate and lacks balanced reporting. Had the DPCI been consulted, it would have been cleared that the Directorate is not investigating such a complaint by Colonel Mhlongo. The matter is being investigated by the Detective Service at station level.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi
What Brigadier Mulaudzi did crucially reveal in his public statement on Monday, however, is that it was Colonel Mhlongo himself, a member of the DPCI, who had lodged the charge “in his personal capacity at the Durban Central Police Station. He did not lodge a complaint on behalf of the DPCI”, Mulaudzi attempted to explain.
We love the smell of spin in the morning.
But let’s rewind a bit, seeing as Brigadier Mulaudzi has accused us of not publishing his original reply to us.
On 17 June 2019, Daily Maverick sent the following email to Brigadier Mulaudzi.
“Good day sir
It has come to my attention that Colonel W S Mhlongo has been appointed as the acting head of the DPCI I KZN. You are no doubt aware that two witnesses at the Zondo Commission, former NPA head Mxolisi Nxasana as well as retired Colonel Johan Booysen have both testified extensively with regard to the role Colonel Mhlongo played in a network in the DPCI who abused the law in order to protect various criminals as well as high-ranking SAPS members connected to these criminal networks.
The story by my colleague Jessica Bezuidenhout below refers to Mr Nxasana’s testimony with regard to Colonel Mhlongo. The allegations are of a highly serious nature.
I have contacted Johan Booysen for comment on the matter and he is unequivocal in his response that it is laughable for Mhlongo to be appointed to this position in KZN while this evidence has been presented in public to the commission.
The appointment flies in the face of commitments by Lieutenant General Lebeya to rid the DPCI of corrupt elements in line with the government’s attempts to clean up law enforcement agencies.
We will be running the story tomorrow. If you could please provide us with comment and response from Lieutenant General Lebeya by midday on Tuesday it would be appreciated.
Brigadier Mulaudzi replied on 18 June 2019
Which appointment are you referring to? Please check with your sources that they do not feed you wrong information.
Mulaudzi H (Brig)”
To which we responded:
“The appointment of Colonel Mhlongo as acting head of the DPCI in KZN… see attached communication… my sources are generally spot on… hope this helps. I am working on the story as we speak so if you could comment soonest
Mulaudzi replied again on 18 June:
The post of the Provincial Head in the DPCI is at the level of a Major General. As and when the Major General is not around a Brigadier will be appointed to fill that space and not a Colonel. Colonel Mhlongo is the ACTING COMMANDER for organised crime in KZN after the departure (retirement) of Brig Dube. In light with all the allegations, those are receiving attention and remain internal.
Mulaudzi H (Brigadier)”
Above is the full set of emails between Daily Maverick and the DPCI. It is untrue for Brigadier Mulaudzi to suggest we did not publish his responses.
But back to here and now.
What we are dealing with is a senior member of the DPCI accused of colluding with criminals, who gets busted by Daily Maverick for being quietly worked into a crucial position in the DPCI (regional head of Organised Crime, and you, the reader, are welcome to interpret that any way you choose), who now in his “personal capacity” has lodged a charge against a journalist for exposing this.
Smells like intimidation whichever way you perfume it.
While technically the DPCI might not be investigating Daily Maverick – the SAPS are, only thanks to a high-ranking member of the DPCI who has lodged charges in his “personal capacity” about a matter relating to his work, or rather a staff meeting, at the DPCI.
Trumpian logic, but there we have it.
Mulaudzi in his statement has essentially accused SANEF and Daily Maverick of lying about the fact that state resources are being abused by law enforcement officials who themselves are suspects, to hound the media.
So here is how it all went down:
Until Daily Maverick emailed the Hawks about the serious allegations by both former NPA head, Mxolisi Nxasana, and former KZN Hawks head, Johan Booysen, to the Zondo Commission, it appeared no one thought to suspend Mhlongo from or to investigate the allegations.
And they are serious.
Booysen testified to the Zondo Commission in May 2019, while Nxasana testified on 18 June 2019.
Booysen told the commission that Mhlongo had been implicated in tipping off Durban “businessman” and Zuma connection, Thoshan Panday.
Panday was being investigated by the Hawks for fraud relating to R60-million worth of inflated contracts between the SAPS and Panday’s company Gold Coast Trading during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Nxasana testified that a “Colonel Mhlongo” from KZN had allegedly been tasked by his predecessor, former acting NDPP Nomgcobo Jiba, to dig up dirt on him so that he could be worked out of the position.
Nxasana testified under oath that he had been alerted to Jiba’s operation when Terence Joubert, then an NPA risk specialist, had provided Nxasana with an unsolicited affidavit and a recording of Joubert’s conversation with Mhlongo in which the plot to oust the new NPA head was discussed.
When Daily Maverick first sent our questions to Mulaudzi about Mhlongo’s acting appointment, (which had not been made public, as is required – the Hawks work for the people of South Africa) the DPCI spokesperson said that the appointment had been made prior to testimony at the Zondo Commission, but now that we had alerted them an investigation would be conducted.
Booysen testified in MAY. By the time we contacted the DPCI it was JUNE, a month later. Mhlongo was still sitting pretty. Acting Head of Organised Crime, remember.
Over and above this the DPCI had been made aware in 2018 that Mhlongo would be implicated in Nxasana’s testimony, and also that Terence Joubert had made an affidavit and a recording of his conversation with Mhlongo.
It is also clear from our communication with Mulaudzi that Mhlongo has only just been informed, on 29 July, that he is being investigated.
On Monday we sent the following email to Mulaudzi after he had issued the statement suggesting that SANEF and Daily Maverick were lying and being unethical:
“Our points to you are:
1. Col Mhlongo was appointed in spite of DPCI being aware that he was mentioned by Nxasana in court papers deposed LAST YEAR (2018) as having approached Terence Joubert of the NPA to find dirt on Nxasana.
2. DPCI denied his appointment until I forwarded letter signed by him as acting commander.
3. Booysen and Nxasana both testified at Zondo, yet no action was taken until I queried the matter. Only then did you, in your email to me, undertake to investigate the matter.
4. Has Col Mhlongo been informed that he is being investigated? And if so when?
5. In spite of all this, Col Mhlongo remains the acting Provincial Commander for DPCI in KZN and in fact is a panel member for new promotions posts in the DPCI.
Now my questions are:
1. Will Mhlongo be suspended pending any investigation as the allegations are serious and he could possibly interfere with the investigation?
2.The case was opened by Col Mhlongo who is a member of DPCI. In fact he is the Acting Provincial Commander for Organised Crime of the DPCI KZN. To deny the involvement of DPCI in the investigation therefore is disingenuous and designed to obfuscate the real issue, which is that Mhlongo’s involvement in criminal activity and DPCI’s inaction to take timeous appropriate steps.
3. The fact that SAPS and not DPCI have sent us questions is academic. The fact remains SAPS is attempting to trace our source.
4. The case opened is one of theft. What was possibly stolen? And a case under the secrecy act? How can a notice of an open meeting qualify to be a secret?
I look forward to your comprehensive and comprehensible reply before 8pm.”
To which Mulaudzi replied:
“It would be incorrect for the Hawks to speak on behalf of Colonel Sthembiso Mhlongo who acting in his personal capacity. The Hawks are not investigating a case against Marianne Thamm. It is the detectives at the Durban Central Station that are investigating the case. All relevant questions pertaining to the investigation should be directed to the SAPS in KZN.
Lastly, you will recall that on 18 June 2019 the DPCI issued a statement to the media that the allegations that were raised at the commission are now subject of an internal enquiry. We cannot comment further as this process remains a matter between the employee and employer.
Mulaudzi H (Brigadier)”
So you see people, it’s simple.
State resources are being used to intimidate and investigate the media for doing our job of exposing corruption in the DPCI and the SAPS. But don’t ask the DPCI about it, they know nothing. Because in their world, their colonel, acting head of KZN Organised Crime, can lay a personal charge in connection with his own interpretation of professional secrecy that he is entitled to while doing his job at the Hawks.
We’re talking a runaway plausible deniability train here.
Meanwhile, Colonel Mhlongo is still the acting DPCI head of Organised Crime in KZN. Brigadier Mulaudzi is still the Hawks spokesperson.
We look forward to all further developments. DM