AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Hawks boss Lebeya hails successes – from R6-billion worth of seized contraband to human trafficking busts
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation boss Godfrey Lebeya zoned in on successful swoops on corruption, human trafficking, contraband trade and clandestine drug laboratories during a briefing to the media on Monday.
Two women, aged 20 and 31 were found at the home of human trafficker accused Esther Mwanza on 20 January 2023 in the North West. They were allegedly trafficked from the Democratic Republic of Congo to South Africa and subjected to labour exploitation.
Following a thorough investigation, Mwanza was apprehended by the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation in Klerksdorp on 2 June, 2023. She appeared briefly before the Magistrate’s Court on human trafficking charges.
The victims are in a place of safety, which was provided by the Department of Social Development. The case was postponed to 19 September 2023.
Progress in the trafficking case was revealed by the Hawks national head Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya during a media briefing on Monday, 4 September in Pretoria on the agency’s successes achieved from the first quarter 2023/2024 financial year.
Lebeya said, “Trafficking in persons is a modern-day slavery and a crime against humanity.
“South Africa has not been spared this twin pandemic of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. During this reporting period, seven potential victims of trafficking in persons were rescued, while nine suspects were arrested and two life imprisonment sentences secured.”
Overall, Lebeya said that at least 611 suspects have been successfully apprehended and brought before various courts throughout the country. A total of 229 accused persons were convicted and sentenced. A total of 16 of the 229 convicted were sentenced for money laundering.
Most of the arrests, he further said, relate to 203 fraud suspects, a total of 48 for money laundering, and a further 72 suspects were arrested for narcotics and illegal involvement with endangered species. The remaining 228 suspects were arrested for 17 types of national priority crimes.
During these arrests, the Hawks also seized evidence valued over R6-billion, including precious metals and diamonds, endangered species, vehicles, cash, weapons, ammunition, counterfeit items, explosives, and electronic devices.
Concerning Covid-19 social relief of distress grant fraud cases, the Hawks chief indicated that by the end of June 2023, 190 suspects had been hauled before various courts. In 49 of these cases, 64 accused people were found guilty.
Lebaya was also concerned about the proliferation of drugs and the efforts being made to combat illicit substances. A total number of 48 suspects were arrested on drug-related charges. The majority of these suspects were arrested by the South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (Saneb) within the Serious Organised Crime Investigation (Soci) of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).
Drugs worth R3,641,782 were confiscated, and five illegal drug laboratories in Gauteng, North West, and Western Cape were demolished.
On 11 May, 2023, members of the Saneb, the Western Cape Hawks, and the Special Task Force (STF) pounced on a laboratory in rural Mogale City, Magaliesburg, as part of an investigation into drugs supplied to the Western Cape.
Keorapetse Elias Motsepe (38) and Mzingisi Mokoloda (73) were accused of running a fully operational clandestine laboratory. During the search, police discovered R150-million worth of mandrax paste, mandrax tablets, a mandrax press machine, an oven to dry methaqualone, buckets of methaqualone, and drums of powder used in the manufacture of mandrax.
Motsepe is out on R20,000 bail whilst Mokoloda was remanded in custody after his bail application was denied. The case was postponed for further investigation. The duo will appear on drug-related charges in Krugersdorp Magistrate court on 19 October 2023.
The unrelenting attacks on women and men in blue continue unabated. On Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa led the nation in honouring fallen officers on SAPS National Commemoration Day. A total of 34 officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the past year.
Lebeya emphasised that an attack on police officials is an attack on the state, and the death of one police official is one too many.
“Dear South Africans, for the 1st quarter only, we noted with concern that 31 (11 on-duty 20 off-duty) police officials were killed in 30 incidents.
“During the same period, 24 arrests were made. A total number of nine convictions were secured on murder of police officials, eight of which share nine life term imprisonment and a combined period of more than 100 years imprisonment,” he said.
Nkosikhona Luthuli (28) and Kusakwendoda Luthuli (42) are two police killers serving life sentences. They were responsible for the death of Phoenix detective Sergeant Sibongile Mbanjwa, who was ambushed with his colleague in a state car. On April 21, this year, the pair was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder, five years for attempted murder, and five years for robbery in the Verulam Regional Court.
Northern Cape Health Department corruption
The Department of Health in this province has been plagued by corruption and fraud. It dates back to 2003, when the Northern Cape Department of Health together with the Department of Roads and Public Works, embarked on a project to construct a new mental health facility in Kimberley. The original contract was worth R290-million.
Lebeya explained, “It is alleged that some of the constructed buildings face possible demolition after R420-million was paid to a liquidated contractor. It was discovered that the company that was appointed did not have the capacity to render the service and the contract was terminated whilst money was already paid.
“The work on the project has since been halted, leaving the facility incomplete and unusable, and at a considerable cost to the Department of Health. Officials did not follow normal procurement procedures when appointing the consultant.”
Some of the suspects in the case, Patience Mokhali (65) who is the former Head of Department for Roads and Public Works and Tshegolekae Motaung (59) who is a director of Babereki Consulting Engineers were brought before the Upington Magistrates’ court by the Serious Corruption Investigation team of the Hawks in Kimberley on 23 May, 2023.
Seven days later (30 May 2023), the former MEC of Transport, Roads and Public Works, in the Northern Cape, John Block, who is serving a 15-year sentence for fraud and money laundering, was also brought before the same court.
This announcement comes a week after former Northern Cape Health Department acting head Dion Theys was released on R5,000 bail. He faces charges of contravening the provisions of the Public Management Act, fraud, corruption and money laundering in connection with a R16-million personal protective equipment contract.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Special Investigating Unit uncovers multimillion-rand Covid-related corruption in Northern Cape. DM