Former Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli and his co-accused Mthembeni Mthunzi have been sentenced to five years in prison for charges of kidnapping, assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, which occurred while Mdluli was commander of the Vosloorus police station in 1998.
Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng in the South Gauteng High Court dismissed Mdluli and Mthunzi’s calls for a non-custodial sentence, which they claimed would be more appropriate as they needed to provide for their families and were at risk of contracting Covid-19 in prison.
Handing down the sentence on Tuesday, the judge said he had considered imposing prison time, a suspended sentence and even victim compensation in the form of a fine.
“But the circumstances of this case because we’re dealing with two senior policemen who abrogated to themselves powers which police normally have but these powers were abused to such an extent that the effect was devastating on the victims, and consequently, in my view, the only appropriate sentence under the circumstances is a custodial sentence,” said Mokgoatlheng.
Mdluli and Mthunzi’s lawyers immediately launched their leave to appeal application after the sentence was handed down, however it was declined
The court found Mdluli and Mthunzi guilty of kidnapping, assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm in July 2020.
Mdluli was initially charged in 2011, two years after he was appointed to head Crime Intelligence, before the charges were dropped by the NPA. Civil society groups fought to have them reinstated.
Mdluli and Mthunzi were found to have abused their positions as police officers in 1998 to track down, kidnap and assault Oupa Ramogibe. Mdluli’s wife under customary law, Tshidi Buthelezi, was in a relationship with and had married Ramogibe.
The jealous Mdluli went with Mthunzi to track down Buthelezi and Ramogibe. They visited Buthelezi’s friend Alice Manana in Vosloorus and forced her to reveal the couple’s location before finding the pair in Orange Farm and kidnapping and assaulting Ramogibe.
Ramogibe was shot dead in 1999 – Mdluli was originally a suspect for the murder but charges were dropped. Buthelezi died soon after of natural causes.
“The accused was aware of his actions and consequences thereof. The court has a duty to pass an appropriate sentence which equally balances the personal circumstances of the accused, the seriousness of the offence and the interests of society,” said Judge Mokgoatlheng when he began handing down the sentence on Monday.
Mdluli and Mthunzi both argued that a prison sentence would limit their abilities to provide for their dependents, but Mokgoatlheng said neither could claim to be indigent. Mdluli has a gross pension of R60,000 a month and Mthunzi has an income of approximately R40,000, his SAPS pension combined with earnings from an Uber vehicle.
“In both instances, the financial means which the accused are in command of as pensioners of the South African Police appear to be sufficient for the family,” said Mokgoatlheng.
He dismissed their arguments regarding Covid-19, saying society at large is at risk of infection and prisons have taken precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus and offer medical assistance to those who are in need.
Mdluli, who argued that the claims against him were fabricated, showed no remorse, said the judge. He continued to deny the allegations against him throughout the trial.
“There is no evidence, not a speck of evidence that the state fabricated, concocted and embedded and cooked evidence against accused number one and two,” said the judge.
Mdluli was one of former president Jacob Zuma’s key defenders in the security and justice sectors after his 2009 appointment. He also faces charges of fraud, corruption, theft and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly looting Crime Intelligence’s secret service account, due to be heard in the Tshwane High Court on 10 November 2020.
Mdluli was suspended from Crime Intelligence after he was charged in 2011 but briefly reinstated once the charges were dropped. Civil society group Freedom Under Law was one of the organisations that went to court to have his suspension reimposed in 2012.
“Today’s sentencing is an important vindication of the rule of law in that one of South Africa’s most senior police officers has finally been held accountable for some of the crimes he has committed,” said Freedom Under Law in a statement on Tuesday.
“It is a cause for reflection that had Freedom Under Law, one of a group of civil society watch dogs active in this way, not challenged the decisions to withdraw charges and to keep former Mdluli at his desk, his impunity would have been assured.” DM
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