The capture and subversion of the South African criminal justice cluster sits at the stone heart of the State Capture project which played out in the latter years of Jacob Zuma’s ruinous administration.
It is here that willing and ruthless minions were dispatched to jam a spoke into the wheels of capable law enforcement, enabling the steady erosion of state institutions as well as the criminal siphoning off of billions in public funds for personal and political gain.
Those named at the Zondo commission in the past two weeks as being at the alleged nexus of the subversion of the law are former ministers of police Nathi Mthethwa and Nathi Nhleko, DPCI head Berning Ntlemeza, NPA prosecutor Andrew Mosing, former IPID acting executive director Israel Kgamanyane, former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli, North West SAPS deputy commissioner Ntebo “Jan” Mabula as well as Mdluli ally and crime intelligence officer Colonel Nkosana “Killer” Ximba (to name only a few).
Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo, clearly alarmed at the depth of the alleged collusion by those named, called for the allegations to be corroborated and for those implicated to be called to answer serious allegations.
“We can’t afford to have these institutions to be used improperly,” said Zondo while ordering the commission’s legal team to secure all relevant documents relating to previous criminal proceedings instituted against IPID officials, including former executive director Robert McBride, as well as investigators Matthew Sesoko and Innocent Kuba.
The heroes in the shameful chapter that has come to be known as the State Capture years are the ethical officials who stood up to the relentless bullying of what can only be termed a seemingly unaccountable mafia embedded within the state.
Beyond what we read as headlines are real lives and a deep and personal cost to officials who found themselves targets — for investigating a veritable nest of vipers including prominent businessmen, high-ranking SAPS and other officials, tax dodgers as well as politically connected senior governing party members.
It is one thing to read investigative journalists’ accounts of the abuse of state resources and employees who attempted stop it, but it is quite another to sit through the agonising testimony of those at the receiving end of a relentless, ruthless and criminal campaign to neutralise them.
The intention of those who plotted with political principals in the State Capture project was the financial ruin and professional humiliation and isolation of anyone who stood in their way.
In the process, those targeted were forced to seek costly legal advice to defend themselves against a cabal which clearly had no qualms about dipping into a bottomless stash of state funds to accomplish their mission.
That these rogue state employees were never held accountable, even after their abuse was made known to parliamentary oversight committees, is an indication of the depth of the rot.
Anything and everything was used to sideline ethical officials: the law, including the weaponisation of disciplinary procedures, the planting of stories by crime intelligence in the media as well as the use of private law and accounting firms as blunt instruments.
Some of these officials, including former Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya, are today still saddled with crippling legal bills that have mounted up in the almost decade-long onslaught. It was Sibiya’s investigation into Zuma ally and former crime intelligence head Richard Mduli which rendered him a marked man.
Former IPID head of investigations Matthews Sesoko, for example, was placed under such unbearable pressure to implicate his colleagues in the fake “Zimbabwe rendition” saga, he spent two weeks hospitalised for depression.
Those targeting him outsourced the witch-hunt, using an apparent “independent” investigation by Werksmans attorneys, commissioned by former minister of police Nathi Nhleko, to dismiss Sesoko as he lay recovering.
Later, Sesoko, along with IPID head Robert McBride and Limpopo head of investigations Kuba, were investigated by the Crimes Against the State Unit, publicly arrested and detained in police cells before being charged with fraud and defeating the ends of justice. In the end, the state withdrew all the charges.
And while in public the IPID investigators were all vindicated, in private the legal bills kept rolling in.
On 27 September 2019, IPID investigator Innocent Kuba broke down while giving testimony at the Zondo Commission, setting out how he had been threatened with dismissal if he did not implicate colleagues who had been targeted for removal.
Kuba said his first thoughts had been for his children and family and how they would survive financially. He refused to admit to charges of dishonesty and defeating the ends of justice with regard to the “Zimbabwe rendition” matter.
“I reflected exactly how I had reached that level and that I had never been in a situation like that before…The picture that came to me is that you are in a senior position, you took yourself to university, the struggles, the pain of which many people had been saying to me you managed to overcome…” he trailed off before breaking down.
Kuba said he had struck a deal during his disciplinary hearing because he’d been informed that he had no alternative and his fate had already been determined.
Kuba said his wife had stood by him and that he had been prepared, at one stage, to “rake leaves” and had contemplated starting a carpet-cleaning business to find a way to earn an honourable income.
The playbook in the rogue attacks on committed officials in IPID, the DPCI, SAPS and SARS in particular, has become depressingly familiar during months of testimony to the Zondo Commission.
Trumped up charges, manufactured by rogue crime intelligence or state security operatives are leaked to select journalists. Sensational newspaper reports are followed by a costly private investigation by law or accounting firms (paid for by taxpayers) appointed by ministers or senior officials, to produce the desired outcome.
Officials who are regarded as obstacles for doing their work are forced out either through suspensions or “agreements” which promise to make their lives easier or make the nightmare disappear.
There appears to have been no one these ethical government employees could turn to or trust when the predators pounced.
At the Zondo Commission, Sesoko accused former Sunday Times journalists Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter over the planting of stories on the so-called “Zimbabwe Rendition” case.
The case was aimed at sidelining McBride, Hawks head Anwar Dramat and Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya.
The two journalists were also implicated in the “Cato Manor death squad” stories which resulted in the hounding and later publicly-staged arrest of KZN Hawks Head Johan Booysen.
Booysen has testified extensively at the Zondo commission how his investigations into politically connected KZN businessman Thoshan Panday and others were derailed by rogue SAPS officers (some who remain in the employ of SAPS), crime intelligence operatives and NPA prosecutors who thwarted the bringing of charges.
Wa Afrika, Hofstatter and Piet Rampedi were also part of the Sunday Times investigative unit which broke the SARS “rogue unit” story which set off a series of seismic events which still play out in today’s body politic.
Kuba told Zondo “with this government of ours, when they want to get rid of you, they will get rid of you”.
This meant that even someone he had regarded as a friend, Israel Kgamanyane, who headed IPID in the Free State, was prepared to risk his own integrity to fulfil the goal of getting rid of Kuba. Kgamanyane was appointed as acting head of IPID after the illegal suspension of McBride.
“Somehow I just understood it this way: some people are so ambitious to such an extent that when they are looking for a bigger position, integrity no longer matters.”
The official punishment continued after Kuba had been dismissed. An outstanding R8,00o claim for petrol was deliberately delayed.
“I phoned head office and they said they would pay in 30 days. When I checked and I had not been paid, I kept phoning, then one of the employees told me they were told not to process the claim because if they paid out this money I would use it to pay my lawyer. They want you to suffer,” Kuba told Zondo.
The importance of testimony from good people in the law-enforcement cluster who stood up to the State Capture henchmen — while no one has yet been charged — should serve as a powerful deterrent for anyone seeking to repeat the sorry saga.
But most importantly, it enables South Africans to understand the depth of gratitude we owe a small, but ethical group of people who were at the frontline, pushing back against the repurposing of the state for criminal purposes.
The least we can do is start a fundraising campaign to help pay off their crippling legal costs. If anyone feels so inclined there are platforms that would enable this. If our own government can’t protect them, we, as the citizens of the country, should find the way. DM