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President Jacob Zuma, in a startling written reply to Parliament, said he had never seen the explosive letter that caused such division in the top ranks of the police that it led to the removal of controversial crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.
The letter, dated November 2011 and addressed to Zuma, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, suggests that four senior police officials were conspiring to discredit Mdluli, and prevent him from assisting Zuma in his bid for a second term as ANC leader.
It was cited by Mthethwa as the reason for Mdluli being “shifted” out of the crime intelligence division when he made the announcement in Parliament on Wednesday.
Mthethwa has also denied receiving the letter, which names suspended national police commissioner General Bheki Cele, Hawks head Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat, operational services head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya and Gauteng provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros as ganging up against Mdluli.
On Wednesday, Mthethwa told Parliament the allegations contained in the letter were “so serious as to suggest the meddling of policing functions in politics”.
But Zuma said he had not received “the letter in question”.
“As a result, I am not aware of the content of the letter,” he said, replying to a question from Cope MP Leonard Ramatlakane.
Yesterday Mthethwa announced the members of a task team to investigate the allegations contained in the letter. The team will be led by the chief state law adviser Enver Daniels, and will include Lieutenant-General Abel Mxolisi Shilubane from the SANDF, Stan Noosi from State Security, and SAPS head of legal services Lieutenant-General Julius Molefe.
Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi emphasised that the team would investigate the validity of the letter, and not necessarily the four implicated in it.
But security experts have criticised the investigation for being conducted by state officials rather than an independent law firm or judge.
Gareth Newham, head of crime and policing at the Institute for Security Studies, questioned the task team’s ability to conduct an independent investigation because all its members were part of the security cluster and reported to cabinet ministers, who might be close to Zuma.
“If people close to the president are protecting Mdluli, and the people conducting the investigation report to those ministers, then I don’t know how the outcome of the investigation could be valid,” he said.
Newham suggested that senior politicians were “going out of their way to keep the investigation out of independent hands.
“If you are politically connected, everything but the criminal justice system is used. It’s a pattern which poses a direct threat to the rule of law in South Africa,” he said.
“The question is why this man (Mdluli) isn’t being treated like all other officers accused of other crimes.”