A convicted kidnapper, and a police officer who misrepresented his qualifications and was pushed out of the police service.
These are two of the people who have headed South Africa’s Crime Intelligence, the critical buffer meant to snuff out high-level threats so that officers can proactively protect residents.
But the all-important policing component now has a history that, at some points, reads something like a bizarre rap sheet, and, if claims from certain police officers are to be believed, it has all but transformed into a shadowy threat to those meant to be protected.
On top of this, the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has heard strong allegations that the State Security Agency was abused to suit a political faction aligned to former president Jacob Zuma.
As DM168 reported, claims of police officers committing crimes and others being sidelined for investigating these could also be a symptom of State Capture — two words that have become synonymous with allegations against Zuma.
Following Zuma’s incarceration last week for contempt of court, protests involving his supporters erupted in his home province of KwaZulu- Natal.
This week the protests morphed into intense looting that saw widespread road closures, Covid-19 vaccination sites shutting down, businesses destroyed, hundreds of arrests and dozens of people killed.
Questions about the role of intelligence in preventing such situations surfaced, the most notable being: why didn’t these structures extinguish the situation before it erupted?
Well, according to Police Minister Bheki Cele and State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, they did the best they could.
Their responses, however, come across as delusional and contradictory when paired with footage of rampant looting and destruction.
During a media briefing on Tuesday, Cele said officers had acted on early warning signs that intelligence picked up and there was strong surveillance on the ground.
He said at least 304 arrests had been made in KwaZulu-Natal and 453 in Gauteng.
Police were still pursuing “the agitators”.
Dlodlo, replying to a question, confirmed the State Security Agency (SSA) was investigating information that senior ANC members and former SSA members who supported Zuma were involved in instigating the looting.
Answers to broader questions relating to Crime Intelligence capabilities also seem to lead back to Zuma.
In July 2009, two months after Zuma was inaugurated as president, Richard Mdluli was appointed head of Crime Intelligence.
This paved the way for an ugly national disgrace and sowed the seeds of secret service account looting allegations that have grown over the years.
Aside from the plundering of the secret service account to line personal pockets, there is a widespread belief it has been used to favour certain politicians and towards their election campaigns.
On 31 March 2011 Mdluli was arrested and faced 18 charges, including murder, kidnapping, intimidation and defeating the ends of justice relating to a 1999 killing.
Cele, who was the national police commissioner at the time, suspended Mdluli in May 2011 and around that time Crime Intelligence members raised allegations about other crimes within their ranks.
Investigations into these allegations led to Mdluli facing further charges linked to fraud and corruption in September 2011 — this related to looting of the secret service account.
The Investigating Directorate recently said: “The charges are related to allegation[s] of gross abuse of the police intelligence slush fund. The allegations include payment of private trips to China and Singapore, private use of witness protection houses, conversion of this property for personal use and the leasing out of Mdluli’s private residence to the state in order to pay his bond, amongst others.”
In a letter to Zuma in November 2011, now referenced in court papers, Mdluli’s warped priorities were revealed.
His letter said: “[I]n the event that I come back to work, I will assist the President to succeed next year.”
Court papers said this “was an obvious reference to the forthcoming presidential elections of the ruling African National Congress in Mangaung towards the end of 2012”.
Mdluli, therefore, pledged his allegiance to Zuma, and not to ensuring safety and security in South Africa.
Ricocheting attempts from within the state to keep him out of the Crime Intelligence position, as others tried to push him out, followed over the ensuing years.
In June 2012 Major-General Chris Ngcobo was appointed as the acting head of Crime Intelligence while the Mdluli matter still festered.
What should have brought stability to the unit instead triggered yet another slamming wave of shame — and worry.
In October 2013 the then national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, (herself later suspended ) announced she had placed Ngcobo on special leave.
“During a vetting process, discrepancies were found between the declaration made by Major-General Chris Ngcobo and official records pertaining to his qualifications. [Ngcobo] has so far failed to satisfactorily explain the discrepancies,” Phiyega said.
“His ‘top secret’ security clearance was therefore denied.”
Ngcobo was effectively pointed to as a liar.
In the same month that Ngcobo was suspended, October 2013, Major-General Bongiwe Zulu was appointed as acting Crime Intelligence head.
Fast-forward two years.
The Ngcobo issue finally wrapped up.
On 1 August 2015 police issued a statement saying that Ngcobo had resigned after being on special leave from October 2013, “following the discovery of a discrepancy in his academic qualification in respect of his matric certificate, which emerged during a vetting process.
“His resignation brings to an end the relationship Ngcobo had with the SAPS, and we have no intention of commenting further on this matter, suffice to say that we have members without a matric certificate but it is a problem when members claim to have such qualifications when in fact they do not,” the police statement said.
A few months later Zulu, still acting as Crime Intelligence boss, was transferred to a lesser job of heading police research — City Press reported in December 2015 that the then acting national police commissioner, Khomotso Phahlane, was behind her transfer.
(Phahlane is now criminally charged in a case involving other police officers. Charges include fraud and corruption relating to a contract for emergency warning equipment.)
Following Zulu’s transfer, Major-General Agnes Makhele was appointed to act as Crime Intelligence head. (She later faced a charge of defeating the ends of justice for allegedly protecting Phahlane from a corruption case — Parliament was told that she was accused of telling staff to withhold information from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate).
By this point, it should have been clear that Crime Intelligence desperately needed a clean police officer, without any political or work baggage, and with clear intent to lead the unit.
This did not happen.
In June 2017 Major-General Pat Mokushane took over as acting Crime Intelligence head and then just two months later was reportedly fired after it emerged he did not have security clearance.
The same month Mokushane exited the service, Major-General King Bhoyi Ngcobo was appointed as acting head of Crime Intelligence — it just so happens that he once headed Zuma’s protection team.
This meant another Zuma ally oversaw a key component of South Africa’s security.
In November 2017 Khehla Sitole was appointed as national police commissioner.
The month after Sitole took up his position, he and Ngcobo were among a group of police officers who attended a meeting at a Pretoria hotel on 13 December 2017 — two days before the ANC’s 54th elective conference at Nasrec, which saw Cyril Ramaphosa narrowly winning.
(Cele, in his capacity as police minister, subsequently called for an inquiry into Sitole’s fitness to hold office. This was linked to the classification of documents that tied into Crime Intelligence’s allegedly unlawful procurement of a surveillance device — “a grabber” — at an inflated price of R45-million ahead of the ANC’s 2017 elective conference.)
Just a few months after Sitole’s appointment, things quickly unravelled for Zuma as he faced mounting State Capture allegations that in February 2018 saw him buckling under the weight and stepping down as head of state.
This led to Ramaphosa becoming president and with that, the hope for a change in governance style — from looting to locking up looters and looking after residents.
In March 2018 Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, who had been Western Cape Crime Intelligence boss before being suddenly transferred out of this position, was promoted and appointed as national Crime Intelligence head in a permanent capacity.
He took over the reins of a unit bogged down by countless claims of Secret Service Account looting.
Even though some viewed Jacobs as the key figure who could clean up Crime Intelligence, things did not go well for him (perhaps because he was indeed intent on cleaning up the unit).
In December 2020 Jacobs was suspended, along with a few other Crime Intelligence officers.
They were suspended over allegations of personal protective equipment procurement irregularities involving the secret service account reportedly totalling nearly R1-million.
In March this year, Jacobs’ suspension was lifted, but instead of being allowed to return to work as national Crime Intelligence head, he was told to return as Inspectorate head.
This was widely viewed as Jacobs being sidelined.
Jacobs believed “ulterior motives” were behind the “bogus” allegations being levelled against him.
In an affidavit relating to the matter, he said he felt he was being targeted because of protected disclosures he had made relating to corruption within the police service, including about “wide-scale” corruption in Crime Intelligence amounting to millions of rands.
Jacobs said his division also “reported irregular and inflated pricing of protective personal equipment by SAPS procurement amounting to R260-million by four companies, to the Hawks and the Anti-Corruption Task Team.”
He said shortly before his suspension, he realised his supervisor, Deputy National Commissioner Lieutenant-General Sindile Mfazi “has been the subject of criminal investigation from the Hawks, but the investigation could not proceed because crucial information related to that investigation was classified by the previous Crime Intelligence management and they refused to recommend [declassification] of those documents.
“As I was in the process of considering this file to recommend declassification, I was then suspended.”
Mfazi, whom Jacobs also claimed had bullied and threatened him, died last week from Covid-related complications.
It is not clear what impact his death will have on investigations against police officers.
Meanwhile, in February this year, while Jacobs was suspended and the position of Crime Intelligence head was effectively vacant, Lieutenant-General Yolisa Mokgabudi (formerly Matakata), who was the Western Cape provincial commissioner, was appointed as acting Crime Intelligence boss.
At the start of this month, Lieutenant-General Thembisile Patekile was appointed as the Western Cape’s new permanent police commissioner, meaning Mokgabudi would not be returning to head the province’s police.
However, Crime Intelligence is now still headed by a police officer in an acting capacity following a controversy that saw its head claiming he was targeted for flushing out crimes in the state, including in Crime Intelligence — in other words, State Capture, the root of Zuma’s current legal troubles. DM