In Daily Maverick today you will find a legal letter penned to us on behalf of Major-General Feroz Khan, current occupant of the crucial position of head of SAPS Counter and Security Intelligence. We firmly believe their letter reflects the situation as it was then, as it currently stands now, and is precisely why we are writing about it.
We suggest you click on the legal letter, take some mental notes and then return to chart a course through the issues in question.
We frame these here as:
Khan, through his attorney Ian Levitt, claims our headline “Millionaire top cop at centre of feud between police minister and national commissioner” was “unfair and misleading”.
We firmly believe it accurately depicts the situation as it was then, and as it currently stands now.
Khan was prompted by a story which we published on 20 August revealing that the senior policeman was the subject of back-and-forth correspondence between Cele and Sitole.
That Khan is the subject of the correspondence between the two top people is not in dispute – we have seen the documents.
Our story also revealed that Khan is an active director of six lucrative businesses; one of them, Spares Oasis, a motor parts chain opened in 2001 and it is worth around R21-million. This information was obtained during a CIPC search of public information.
Surprisingly, this is also not in dispute.
In fact, Levitt and the SAPS both confirmed that Khan is free to conduct as much business as he pleases while in the employ of the state.
Brigadier Vish Naidoo, spokesperson for Sitole, in response to a question from Daily Maverick, said the SAPS was aware of Khan’s considerable business interests and had in fact “given him permission” to run these.
While Levitt has quoted in his letter to us findings by Lieutenant-General Thembi Hadebe, handed down on 16 August after an inquiry into the “alleged improper use of delegated powers by our client [Khan]”, the attorney has omitted to highlight other crucial findings by Hadebe.
Khan, it is not disputed, had signed off several procurements (at least five) from the Crime Intelligence secret service account while he acted in the top position between December 2020 and February 2021. This was while the incumbent, Lieutenant-General Peter Jacobs, faced suspension by Sitole. (Jacobs later challenged the action and won.)
Levitt states Hadebe also found that, “No disciplinary steps be taken against Maj Gen Khan as any attempt to do so will not see the light of possible conviction under the circumstances.”
What Levitt fails to mention is that Hadebe found that Khan “was never appointed” as the acting division commissioner in the first place.
This was because the man who shuffled him into the position, Lieutenant-General Sindile Mfazi, who was acting as national commissioner at the time, had no powers or authority to do so.
Hadebe added it was, therefore, “Major General Khan’s responsibility to familiarise himself with the delegation of authority”, something he clearly failed to do as he signed off on a load of transactions that now expose the SAPS to litigation.
(Mfazi, incidentally, was named by Jacobs during his numerous correspondences with Sitole and in court papers, as a colleague who had bullied him. Jacobs has consistently maintained he has been targeted for exposing corruption in CI.)
The late Mfazi announced at a meeting one morning after Jacobs’ suspension that Khan was being made acting divisional commissioner of CI.
Hadebe, in her inquiry into Khan (which Levitt failed to mention), also found that some of the transactions signed off by Khan “do have a direct and or indirect impact on the finances of any division and therefore deserve strict monitoring by all officials in terms of Section 45 of the PFMA [Public Finance Management Act]”.
In the end, Hadebe’s finding was clear: Khan exceeded his authority, violating the PFMA and the SAPS Act.
What that means is all of the transactions can be challenged in court and the SAPS is exposed to possible liability.
Most curiously, while Hadebe found Khan had overshot his powers and in fact had transgressed the PFMA, he had done so “in good faith”.
“It is my view that Maj Gen Khan was acting in good faith without malice intent [sic] focussing in ensuring that the administration of the Division CI is managed efficiently and effective [sic] so as to prevent any maladministration taking into account the prevailing situation at the time he was entrusted with the responsibility of an overseer.”
Hadebe, who is Limpopo provincial commissioner, concluded that Khan’s “commitment” deserved “to be applauded as compared to be negatively judged….” and then she added the caveat, “not unless the contrary is proven”.
The matter appears now to have ground to a halt and does not appear to be heading to any court where Khan’s “intentions” when he broke the law can be tested or “the contrary proven”.
There is a slight snag, should this come to pass.
Chief witness Sindile Mfazi, who illegally appointed Khan in the first place, will never be able to clarify exactly what went down or why he did what he did.
The former national commissioner for crime detection was said to have died of Covid-related complications on 9 July.
(In the meantime, his body has been exhumed from Cambridge Cemetery in East London and his death, amid allegations he was poisoned, is now the subject of an inquest.)
Levitt also failed to mention in the letter that Hadebe also recommended that all administrative action taken during that time by Kahn “which were delegated above the Divisional Commissioner be reviewed”.
So here’s the thing.
We are not sure about you, but it makes us uneasy that a senior policeman who has shot quickly up the ranks holds a crucial position in the grossly undermined Crime Intelligence Division and is also the wealthy owner of several thriving businesses.
Why? Why would a wealthy man of independent means seek a job with the SAPS that pays about R1.2-million a year?
In the real world, when wealthy businesspeople run for public office it is expected that they resign from all directorships or place their business interests in blind trusts.
This is done for a very simple and practical reason. We do not need public servants to be confronted with or be placed in a position where they would be faced with a conflict of interest.
Even if Khan is not doing business with the state, the nature of some of his businesses, specifically the motor spares industry, places him in proximity to the major components of organised crime.
We are not suggesting Khan’s businesses are criminal, but what if an investigation into his own company, or a competitor, should come across Khan’s desk at the SAPS?
This is why the extent and nature of Khan’s business interests are of huge public interest and the SAPS needs to be transparent about how it has come to this arrangement.
The decades-long decay of Crime Intelligence has already cost this country dearly. The attempted insurrection this past July was more than enough evidence of this.
Crime Intelligence has been weaponised, not to fight criminals, but to settle scores within the governing ANC, as well as target individuals who get too close to exposing rot.
Major-General Khan, incidentally, happens to be the official to whom an unnamed and secret “information note” requesting authorisation for an investigation into “alleged misconduct” of Jacobs was addressed in March this year.
The note also named Marianne Thamm as one of Jacobs’ alleged partners in crime, claiming he used Daily Maverick to “fight his battles” following his suspension.
The information note happened to coincide with a break-in at Thamm’s home by intruders wearing gloves and who stole only her work computers.
Khan is not an insignificant protagonist in the life and terrible times of Crime Intelligence. He is a very big fish.
Public confidence in the SAPS, already at rock bottom, is further eroded when SAPS employees, especially wealthy businessmen, are held to a different standard than we expect from other public servants and officials.
South African national leadership must deal with our Crime Intelligence problem with greatest urgency. DM
PS: With regard to Levitt’s complaint in relation to our emails to Brigadier Selepe, who is listed on the SAPS website as Sitole’s spokesperson in the absence of Naidoo, we have an email trail as well as our other communication with SAPS, including General Khan.
The hacking tools used in the Matrix were real actual tools.
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