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The ANC has rejected calls for the suspension of Cecil Burgess, chairman of the joint standing committee on intelligence, and denied he tried to influence an investigation into alleged criminal conduct by crime intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli and the division’s finance chief, Major-General Solly Lazarus.
DA chief whip Watty Watson wrote to National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu and National Council of Provinces chairman Johannes Mahlangu this week, asking that Burgess be suspended.
This was after an internal police investigation report by Colonel Kobus Roelofse of the police’s anti-corruption task team said Burgess had written a letter to the then acting head of crime intelligence, Major-General Vele Matshatshe, demanding that the investigator in the Mdluli matter, Major-General Mark Hankel, be removed from the case.
“(ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga) unreservedly rejects a call by DA chief whip Watty Watson… for the removal of… Cecil Burgess from his position. The DA’s attempt to generate wild and unsubstantiated claims to score cheap political points is both disappointing and appalling,” the ANC whip’s office said in a statement last night.
Motshekga added Burgess “has never written a letter calling for the removal of Major-General Hankel or interfered in (his) investigation as alleged”.
But the Roelofse report – seemingly compiled as a consolidated progress report of investigations into allegations of the widespread abuse of police slush funds by Mdluli, Lazarus and others – tells a different tale. It states that Lazarus approached Burgess on a number of occasions, without notifying his superiors, in an attempt to convince the intelligence committee chairman that the probe into slush fund abuse “compromises national security”.
The report goes on to warn that these attempts not only “constitute interference with a criminal investigation” but that the actions of the crime intelligence top brass were “compromising national security and, if not investigated properly, will have a lasting effect on the failure of the SA Police Service to combat crime”.
Roelofse went on to claim that interference in the Mdluli/ Lazarus investigation was so bad – and the police management so unwilling to “protect the integrity of the investigation” – that investigators had even tried to have Lazarus, still in charge of the slush fund, arrested to prevent him from derailing the probe.
Burgess’s assistant, Comelita van den Berg, said last night that the MP couldn’t be reached as he was travelling abroad and would be back only on June 3.