The saga involving former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli as taken a new and unexpected turn.
The Star has reliably learnt that Mdluli and the head of covert support, Solly Lazarus, received notices of suspension on Wednesday, just a day after the rights group Freedom Under Law filed an urgent court application calling for Mdluli’s immediate suspension and removal from all police activities.
The court documents were served on Mdluli only on Thursday after he frustrated attempts to have them served on him on Wednesday. Security guards at his home allegedly blocked the sheriff of the court from gaining access to his property.
Major-General Lazarus was also fingered in the court documents and was accused of interfering with investigations into Mdluli’s conduct by trying to influence parliamentarians into believing that pursuing the investigation would compromise state security.
This was apparently done through Cecil Burgess, a senior ANC MP and chairman of Parliament’s joint committee on intelligence.
The duo have until next Friday to make representations to acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi as to why they should not be suspended.
On Thursday night, national police spokesman Lindela Mashigo would not be drawn on the matter.
He said that “whenever a departmental notice is issued (to a member), the matter is regarded (as being) between an employer and employee and is handled as such.”
According to Lazarus’s notice, his suspension was being considered amid new allegations of his having contravened the police’s disciplinary regulations by wilfully or negligently mismanaging the finances of the state through the improper use of the secret service account.
The notice said additional and new information had come to light on earlier alleged instances of his mismanaging the crime intelligence fund following the retraction of his earlier suspension.
It said these two allegations amounted to serious misconduct and serious financial misconduct.
The notice also said certain junior police officials under Lazarus’s command in crime intelligence would be conducting further investigations against Lazarus and could be witnesses in any inquiry that may result.
It said Lazarus was a senior officer and employed in a sensitive division.
If he remained in his position, “it could cause apprehension among the members and impact on the business of the police”, the notice read.
It could also make the investigators and witnesses feel intimidated and fearful, it said.
“To avoid this, consider the notice of intention to suspend you as an operational necessity.”
Security consultant Paul O’Sullivan welcomed the move.
“I think that’s a great step in the right direction.
“I hope they follow it up with a formal disciplinary hearing and fire him so that he can go stand in court as a civilian – not as a police officer – because he has brought the police into disrepute.
“There are many men and women out there putting their lives at risk on a daily basis while people like Mdluli are out lining their pockets,” he said.
Last week, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa moved Mdluli from his position at crime intelligence to the operational division, pending a task team investigation into allegations that he had mismanaged intelligence funds. He is alleged to have hired his relatives and purchased luxury vehicles for his personal use.
The move was also made in light of a letter Mdluli penned, saying high-ranking police officials were conspiring against him.
Lazarus declined to comment, while Mdluli’s cellphone was switched off.
Police management had not responded to questions by the time of publication.