South Africa

Days of Zondo

Law enforcement’s leaky cauldron of crime intelligence subterfuge, Mdluli/Ntlemeza edition

Law enforcement’s leaky cauldron of crime intelligence subterfuge, Mdluli/Ntlemeza edition

Ntlemeza accused of telling Hawks investigator: “You didn’t do this with Eugene de Kock, so why are you doing this now?”

Hawks investigator Kobus Roelofse claims then Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza was so enraged in a 2015 meeting that he contrasted “Prime Evil” apartheid-era killer Eugene de Kock with crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

In July, Mdluli was convicted of kidnapping, common assault and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Mdluli appeared in the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday, when sentencing proceedings were postponed until November.

Mere kilometres away in Parktown, Hawks investigator Roelofse testified on his investigation into Mdluli’s alleged transgressions. Roelofse returned for a third day of testimony at the Commission of Inquiry Into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud on Thursday, 19 September.

He emphasised his input regarding the 2015 meeting was based on his memory of what Ntlemeza had said four years previously. Roelofse conveyed merely the gist of what he recalled and could not muster direct quotations.

He reported that Ntlemeza reprimanded him on 19 June 2015 over the delivery of documents linked to a Hawks investigation into Mdluli. A mere warrant officer, one Maclean, had apparently delivered the classified documents to Ntlemeza’s office.

Ntlemeza allegedly reprimanded Roelofse for this, but he “still doesn’t know why” and wondered out loud if it was because Maclean’s rank was not sufficiently senior.

The reasoning didn’t make sense,” he said.

He claimed Ntlemeza previously showed a willingness to assist with declassifying sensitive paperwork relevant to the Mdluli investigation. However, in Roelofse’s version, Ntlemeza’s attitude changed during the mid-2015 meeting.

He became very angry when I began to explain what we had uncovered,” said Roelofse.

Ntlemeza reportedly questioned why the Hawks were investigating Mdluli.

He referred to Eugene de Kock. He said you allowed him to do it, now it is our time to do this.”

Roelofse continued describing Ntlemaza’s remarks:

It happened with the previous government, people stole, and why am I investigating what is happening now? In effect, it is my time, or it is our time to eat.”

Roelofse conveyed his recollection of the meaning of Ntlemeza’s words, not his direct speech.

He claimed Ntlemeza suggested:

You didn’t do this with Eugene de Kock, so why are you doing this now?”

During the meeting, claimed Roelofse, Ntlemeza announced he could not work with people he did not trust. Roelofse had the impression Ntlemeza meant he could not work with people who did not follow orders, even if they were unlawful.

Later, Roelofse described a series of reported attempts to intimidate him.

Chair, welcome to the twilight zone,” said Roelofse.

He was speaking specifically about Ntlemeza, in another 2015 meeting, accusing him of meeting Major General Peter Jacobs for lunch.

General Ntlemeza tried to intimidate me by raising an alleged lunch with General Jacobs, which he said needed to be investigated,” he testified.

Roelofse claimed Ntlemeza raised the matter during a meeting on 13 July 2015, at which several others were present. They included newly appointed National Director of Public Prosecutions advocate Shaun Abrahams and Acting Head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation Major-General Zinhle Mnonopi.

Why would it be a problem to have lunch with General Jacobs?” asked a baffled Chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Following the 2015 meeting, Roelofse wrote an email to follow up on Ntlemeza’s remarks.

What would be the transgression? Surely the transgression cannot be with whom I have lunch,” he wrote.

Ntlemeza’s apparent interest in Roelofse’s lunch is trifling compared to his decision to replace Roelofse as chief investigator on the Mdluli case. The same day Ntlemeza allegedly inquired about the lunch, he replaced Roelofse with a colleague.

The colleague, said Roelofse, was transferred within a month and Ntlemeza provided no reasons for his decision.

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Roelofse’s remark on the “twilight zone”, though specific to the lunch, could easily apply to his evidence overall on the stand at the State Capture Inquiry.

On Thursday, he detailed repeated bids to have documents declassified between 2012 and 2015. The items were vital to the investigation into Mdluli, who previously headed Police Crime Intelligence.

Mdluli is suspected of abusing funds in the State Security account, in addition to being convicted of kidnapping, common assault and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. The convictions relate to an incident 20 years ago, when Oupa Ramogibe was kidnapped and assaulted.

News24’s Jeanette Chabalala and Riaan Grobler report: “Ramogibe was married to Mdluli’s former lover Tshidi Buthelezi. Mdluli had paid lobola for her.”

Outside the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday, Mdluli told the SABC’s Chriselda Lewis he was willing to appear before the State Capture Inquiry.

I don’t have a problem with that, even tomorrow I can go,” he said.

Earlier this week, Roelofse detailed the undue benefits Mdluli and those close to him allegedly enjoyed, from luxury cars to overseas travel.

According to Roelofse’s evidence, security at Mdluli’s Boksburg home received an upgrade valued at R190,735. Roelofse testified that “on several occasions” the account paid for local and international flights for Mdluli and his family members, including a visit to China where his daughter was then studying.

According to Roelofse’s evidence, crime intelligence funds covered Mdluli’s then-girlfriend’s business-class travel to Singapore in 2009.

As Rebecca Davis reported for Daily Maverick on Wednesday:

The slush fund was also allegedly used to buy Mdluli five luxury cars — three Mercedes Benzes, one BMW and a Lexus, totalling R3.5-million — while he already had the use of an official vehicle.”

A sticky legacy

Evidence leader advocate Veruska September’s progress through Roelofse’s 72-page affidavit was painstaking.

Roelofse remarked on various documents illustrating his failed attempts to declassify them. He said the documents were either already in his possession (as he had the required clearance to hold and view them) or yet to be obtained. They related either to Mdluli’s cars or family travel.

In some cases, suggested Roelofse, classified documents were thought to have been drafted by suspects within the police service in order to cover up Mdluli’s suspected use of slush funds.

Roelofse has laid the blame, at least in part, at Mdluli’s feet. He said since 19 March 2012 he had been unable to obtain access to documents and this was “directly as a result” of Mdluli’s actions.

With Mdluli no longer in office, Zondo wondered if his absence would make a difference in terms of access to the documents Roelofse sought.

Chair, it did not make any difference,” said Roelofse.

So, the problem as you see it was more than him?” asked Zondo.

Yes, Chair.”

Later, Roelofse intimated that his investigation into Mdluli was thwarted because it concerned far more than the conduct of Mdluli and Police Crime Intelligence Chief Financial Officer General Solly Lazarus.

It became clear to me that the investigation did not only include General Mdluli and General Lazarus. It went much wider than that. It included many senior people, not only inside the police but also outside it. I cannot see that people will risk their careers just for General Mdluli,” he said.

Zondo asked Roelofse about the refusal to co-operate: “Is this an abuse of power?”

Roelofse replied: “That is correct.”

Roelofse reported information he says Anwa Dramat, then head of the Hawks, related to him.

General Dramat on various occasions told me he had meetings with General Phiyega and he said she refused to assist,” said Roelofse. “At some stage it was becoming… he would not even ask anymore.”

Roelofse went further, saying Dramat would not express it, but he though Dramat was “threatened and intimidated” by Phiyega.

Phiyega was appointed National Police Commissioner in 2012 and suspended in 2015.

Phiyega’s counsel stood to “lodge an objection based on the manner in which the witness is testifying” in that Roelofse cited “hearsay evidence” on what Dramat reportedly told him.

He is mentioning alleged reports,” said Phiyega’s counsel.

A lingering burden

Toward the end of his evidence on Thursday, Roelofse was on the brink of breaking down.

He had begun reading a message he had written to Brigadier Moodley, the colleague who briefly replaced Roelofse as the chief investigating officer on the Mdluli case in mid-2015.

The message outlined the saga of Roelofse’s failed attempts over three years to declassify documents. It included mention of Roelofse being “at a crossroads” over the investigation.

Roelofse emphasised ultimate authority for declassifying the documents lay with the national police commissioner.

The current state of affairs, as reported by the Hawks investigator, suggests the cauldron of crime intelligence subterfuge continues to leak.

With regard to the current national commissioner, have attempts been made?” asked Zondo in reference to General Khehla Sitole.

Chair, attempts have been made. No declassification has taken place,” replied Roelofse.

Have there been responses to correspondence in this regard or has there simply been no response?” continued Zondo.

There is just no response, Chair.”

Proceedings resume on Friday at 09:30.

Roelofse is expected to complete his evidence before midday. DM

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