AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Spree of arrests of top cops exposes the depth of the rot alleged in SAPS’s Crime Intelligence
Top police officers and businessmen are accused in draft indictment of an array of corrupt practices, including collusion, wiping call records and failing to report deviations from tender procedure.
Senior police officers procured software that would make it impossible for investigators to get their phone call records – at a time when the country’s top cop was under investigation for irregular procurement.
This and other examples of how badly the Crime Intelligence Division of the South African Police Service (SAPS) was allegedly manipulated are becoming clearer as more high-ranking cops are arrested.
This week former acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane, who already faces corruption charges in another case, was taken into custody, along with three serving Crime Intelligence officers and two businessmen.
The six, released on bail and expected back in a Pretoria court in December, face charges of fraud, corruption, theft and contravening the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The charges relate to two police tenders issued in December 2016, worth about R54-million and linked to mobile communication encryption.
In his final report on State Capture, released in June, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo referred to false intelligence reports emanating from Crime Intelligence, saying it could “destabilise the country”.
This, together with the latest charges against police, hints at the extent to which Crime Intelligence has been subverted over more than a decade.
Richard Mdluli, appointed to head Crime Intelligence in July 2009, two months after Jacob Zuma became president, faces charges linked to the looting of the secret service account. The matter is still playing out in court.
In 2020, the Crime Intelligence boss at the time, Peter Jacobs, was suspended over what he said were bogus allegations. He claimed to have uncovered evidence that cops, including Crime Intelligence colleagues, were abusing the secret service account for years. He was subsequently transferred out of Crime Intelligence.
In June this year, Parliament heard that the previous police commissioner, Khehla Sitole, who was forced to step down in March, had received no Crime Intelligence reports ahead of the attempted insurrection of July 2021 that devastated parts of KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
During his State of the Nation address earlier this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa said “critical vacancies” affected by suspensions in Crime Intelligence would be filled.
The division still has only an acting head – Major General Philani Lushaba.
Apart from Phahlane, whom Zuma appointed to act as police commissioner in October 2015 (and whose first name is spelt “Khomotso” in some court documents), those arrested this week are:
- Lieutenant Colonel Godfrey Mahwayi, who heads Crime Intelligence’s information technology section;
- Major General Obed Nemutanzhela, who was the head of covert intelligence in Crime Intelligence. He was also the chief financial officer of Crime Intelligence’s secret service account;
- Inbanathan Kistiah, the director of Brain Wave Projects 1323 CC trading as I-View Integrated Systems. Earlier this week, Daily Maverick’s Marianne Thamm reported that Kistiah was also being investigated over Crime Intelligence’s allegedly unlawful attempt to procure a surveillance device known as a grabberfor the inflated price of R45-million (the usual price was R7-million) before the ANC’s elective conference in 2017. This issue was believed to have added to the pressure that led Sitole to step down;
- Avendra Naidoo, who was previously married to Gevani Naidoo, the sole director of Perfect Source Professional Services (Pty) Ltd. Naidoo and Kistiah were allegedly friends. Naidoo had access to Perfect Source’s bank account and submitted quotations to Crime Intelligence on its behalf even though he had no written authorisation to incur contractual liability on behalf of the company; and
- Major General Agnes Makhele, who heads Crime Intelligence in the Free State.
A draft indictment against them details what they allegedly got up to.
Ripjar and #FeesMustFall
The indictment says that on 21 December 2016, Nemutanzhela called a brigadier to his office and showed the officer two requests for procurement that Mahwayi had compiled.
“The documents related to procurement of software for mobile communication encryption or secure mobile communication and social media monitoring which was meant to be used for the #FeesMustFall project,” the draft indictment says.
#FeesMustFall is a reference to the student movement that started in October 2015, pushing for free tertiary education.
The draft indictment continues: “[Nemutanzhela] informed [the brigadier] that SAPS management was facing serious challenges and [Phahlane] had instructed that Division: Crime Intelligence should procure software for secure mobile communication and social media monitoring.”
This software was known as Ripjar.
According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), it was “intended to collect and monitor information from social media platforms on the instigators of the university students’ #FeesMustFall protests”.
The draft indictment says that, on Makhele’s alleged recommendation, Nemutanzhela applied to deviate from prescribed procurement procedures “alleging that there was an emergency that necessitated the deviation”.
But the indictment goes on: “No cogent reasons … were provided in the application.” There was also apparently no reason to state the procurement was urgent.
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Phahlane ‘didn’t tell Treasury’
Phahlane allegedly approved the application to deviate from procurement procedures and “failed to inform National Treasury and the Auditor-General about the deviation and/or procurement within the prescribed period as required by … the PFMA”.
The companies Perfect Source (which the NPA described as “a human resource recruitment company”) and Brain Wave Projects or I-View (which the NPA said was “not involved in software engineering but was a security alarms and surveillance cameras company”) submitted written quotations to supply Crime Intelligence with social media monitoring software.
Brain Wave’s quotation was dated before Mahwayi compiled and submitted a proposal for Nemutanzhela to approve.
Perfect Source’s quotation was dated 20 December 2016, a day before Mahwayi compiled the proposal.
Gevani Naidoo did not compile and sign Perfect Source’s quotation. This was done by her ex-husband Avendra Naidoo, allegedly Kistiah’s friend.
Fake competition claims
Perfect Source purported to quote nearly R41-million to supply Ripjar, whereas Brain Wave purported to quote just under R34-million (another company had quoted a fraction of this – R7-million).
“Fictitious competition was created by the submission of two written price quotations from entities that were related to each other,” the draft indictment alleges.
Kistiah’s company, Brain Wave, was awarded the contract.
According to the draft indictment, at the same time the proposal for Ripjar was compiled, so too was a “proposal for the procurement of software for secure encrypted mobile communications or voice encryption system”, known as Daedalus.
“The said procurement was also in contravention of the provisions of the PFMA,” the indictment says.
Again, it is alleged that Kistiah and Naidoo, in other words Brain Wave Projects and Perfect Source, “misrepresented that they were in competition with each other”.
Mahwayi and Nemutanzhela were also accused of misrepresenting that those two companies, as well as a third entity named ISDS, “had submitted written price quotations and were competing for the contract to supply Daedalus”.
ISDS had actually not submitted a written quotation, according to the draft indictment.
Kistiah’s company was awarded a contract to supply Daedalus to Crime Intelligence for R1,197,000 a month.
Mahwayi signed a contract with Kistiah, even though he was not authorised to do so, on behalf of the SAPS. Phahlane, according to the draft indictment, was meant to.
“The irregular expenditures incurred by the Division: Crime Intelligence relating to the procurements referred to above were unlawfully and intentionally not disclosed,” the indictment says.
Wiping call records
In the other matter against Phahlane, he and others are accused of corruption and fraud in the “blue lights” case, linked to a tender to supply emergency equipment to the SAPS in 2016.
The NPA issued a statement this week, saying: “The purpose of Daedalus was to encrypt voice calls made by management of the SAPS at the time when Phahlane was under investigation.”
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate had been looking into him.
The NPA said: “He was being investigated for the ‘blue lights’ police tender and other irregular procurement that happened during his tenure.
“Daedalus made it impossible for investigators to get call records from cellphone providers…
“Daedalus was procured for the sole purpose of encrypting calls and wiping out cellular records and messages.”
‘Battle for the soul of SAPS’
Phahlane has previously portrayed himself an innocent victim. Daily Maverick reported that Phahlane approached the Public Protector in June to request an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the end of his police career in June 2017 over corruption claims.
Part of his complaint to the Public Protector said: “The 1st of June 2022 brought about a completion of a vicious five-year circle/period of an onslaught, character assassination, assault on one’s integrity, abuse of power and authority including insults experienced in a malicious and destructive battle for the soul and control of the South African Police Service waged against Lieutenant General Johannes Khomotso Phahlane.”
Meanwhile, the Investigating Directorate is of the view that the arrests of Phahlane and the others this week showed its commitment to rooting out rotten apples in the SAPS.
The head of the Investigating Directorate, Advocate Andrea Johnson, said: “The wheels of justice are turning and impunity is no longer a given.
“On the contrary, the rule of law is the most important protection of the weak against the whims of the powerful.”
- Purportedly needed in late 2016 to collect and monitor social media platforms relating to the “instigators” of the #FeesMustFall protests.
- The company Perfect Source, whose sole director was Gevani Naidoo, previously married to accused Avendra Naidoo, along with the company Brain Wave Projects trading as I-View, whose director was accused Inbanathan Kistiah, submitted quotations. Avendra Naidoo and Kistiah were allegedly friends. The two entities allegedly colluded.
- Kistiah’s company got the contract.
- The state alleged there was no urgency in procuring the Ripjar software, as police had claimed. Former acting national police commissioner Kgomotso Phahlane allegedly approved an application for deviating from prescribed procurement procedures.
- Purportedly needed in late 2016 for secure encrypted mobile communications or voice encryption systems.
- Perfect Source and I-View allegedly “misrepresented that they were in competition with each other”. A third entity named ISDS was also said to have submitted written price quotations and competed for the contract. But it was later alleged that ISDS had not actually submitted a written quotation.
- Kistiah’s company got the contract.
- The Daedalus software allegedly prevented investigators who were looking into Phahlane from accessing senior police officers’ call records. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.