Acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi will take over the reins of the crime intelligence division boss Richard Mdluli, after the controversial crime intelligence was moved out of the sensitive post on Wednesday.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced during his budget vote speech in Parliament on Wednesday that Mdluli would be “shifted” with immediate effect to another division, to be determined by Mkhwanazi.
Mkhwanazi’s spokesman, Brigadier Lindela Mashigo, told the Cape Argus last night Mdluli would be moved “laterally” and would now work under the national deputy commissioner responsible for operations.
Mdluli would not be taking over anyone’s position.
Mthethwa said in his speech that the move followed “unfortunate public accusations and counter-accusations” within the SAPS management relating to a letter Mdluli was alleged to have written to the minister, President Jacob Zuma and Mkhwanazi.
Mdluli is believed to have claimed that senior cops, including Hawks boss Anwa Dramat, Gauteng police chief Mzwandile Petros and head of detectives Godrey Lebeya, were plotting his downfall, seemingly over their fears he would “assist the president to succeed next year” – presumably in his bid for a second term as ANC president – if he was reinstated as crime intelligence head.
“This letter seems to have political connotations and has caused tensions within the management of SAPS. It alludes to some conspiracy theory of some in the management ganging up against him,” Mthethwa said.
The allegations were “so serious as to suggest the meddling of policing functions in politics”.
Mthethwa said he had appointed a task team, led by state law adviser Enver Daniels, to investigate the claims.
At the same time, fraud and corruption claims against Mdluli relating to alleged looting of the secret service account would continue to be investigated by the Inspector General for Intelligence, Advocate Faith Radebe.
Murder charges against Mdluli were provisionally withdrawn pending the outcome of a judicial inquest into the death of his former lover’s husband, Oupa Ramogibe.
Mthethwa said he was “deliberately and purposefully reiterating the clarity of process on all these current cases and investigations, because over a period of time, there had been some misrepresentation, false allegations and to a certain extent genuine concerns about the goings on within SAPS”.
“We shall stick to our principles of respect for all legal processes of the land,” he said. But Mthethwa’s announcement got a cool reception from commentators and opposition parties in Parliament.
Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said the state law adviser was not the right body to investigate Mdluli’s plot claims. “The state law adviser is not an investigative body… I find it extremely difficult to understand why they have been assigned to do the investigation,” said Burger.
He said it was becoming “increasingly apparent” that all the investigations relating to intelligence or the police were being “shifted around”.
“The main question is, why not let the law take its course?” Burger said.
“Why not let the NPA continue with the case they have against Mdluli,” he added.
Burger said the recent events had caused a lack of confidence in the leadership of the police both within the force and in the general public.
The SA Police Union (Sapu) said Mdluli’s shift was “much appreciated”. Union secretary general Oscar Skommere said that under Mdluli’s leadership, some members had complained that they had been moved from crime intelligence to other departments at short notice.
He said most of them had been deployed to areas that were out of their field of expertise and depth.
Sapu believed the “tug of war” between generals at the top would now subside.
Skommere said Mdluli had been moved by Mkhwanazi and Mthethwa to get him away from “the noise”.
Mdluli, who was seen leaving Parliament on Wednesday after Mthethwa’s announcement in Parliament, had reacted as though “nothing had happened”, said Skommere, who sat a few rows from him.
Opposition parties on Wednesday welcomed the announcement, with some saying it had come too late as the damage to morale among the police services had already been done.
The DA reiterated its call for Mdluli’s re-suspension, saying anything less would be unacceptable.
DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard said the move would not have come about without pressure from her party and from the media, while FF Plus police spokesman Pieter Groenewald told Mthethwa he had “egg on his face” for dragging his feet on the issue.
“One has to ask why didn’t the minister suspend the man as he was under investigation,” said Kohler Barnard during a lively debate.
The ISS’s Hennie van Vuuren said on Wednesday’s announcement was an indication that Zuma and Mthethwa had finally succumbed to pressure from civil society, the ANC and the cabinet, who all feared that the continued presence of Mdluli in his position would lead to a criminalisation of the state.
“There had to be at least some show,” Van Vuuren said. “However all that this has done is shift the focus, because the people implicated in the allegations of murder, corruption and nepotism against Mdluli remain in senior positions within crime intelligence.”
He added that it was the duty of the Hawks and not the inspector-general of intelligence to probe the alleged criminal misconduct involving Mdluli.
“And that’s the difficult question which Mthethwa completely avoided. We are left asking the question of whether this could be linked to the fact that Mdluli played a role or is alleged to have played a role in ensuring President Zuma’s legal team access to the spy tapes that got him into the office of the president in the first place.
“These issues will only be resolved if matters around the arms deal and abuse of power in the SAPS and intelligence services, which appear to have become systemic, are dealt with by a judicial commission of inquiry which will look into the activities in both the police and intelligence services.”
AfriForum said on Wednesday that the decision to move Mdluli to another position did not resolve problems within the SAPS.
“Moving Mdluli is not the answer. The problem must be dealt with head-on and not moved around,” it said.
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said that shifting Mdluli did not do “enough to allay concerns about his suitability to hold any senior position in the SAPS.
“There remain serious allegations against him, and numerous questions remain as to the circumstances surrounding his reinstatement in the first instance…
“President Zuma must re-suspend Richard Mdluli with immediate effect. Anything less is unacceptable.”
Mthethwa said Mdluli had pledged his support for the process.
In an address which plunged almost immediately into a range of controversies plaguing the police, Mthethwa said he had observed, “disturbingly so”, the events over the past few months that were attributed to the senior management of SAPS.
These included allegations against the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks) in Gauteng in relation to renditions involving Zimbabwean nationals, allegations about murders and tortures by the Hawks team in Cato Manor and the allegations relating to Mdluli and the crime intelligence division.
In her address, police committee chairwoman Sindi Chikunga quashed speculation that Mdluli was being considered for appointment as national commissioner should Bheki Cele not return to the position.
Mkhwanazi was already acting in Cele’s place, she said.
“Let me state clearly to all South Africans out there that, under the circumstances, there is no vacancy in the position of the national commissioner and therefore General Mdluli is not being considered for the national commissioner position… There is absolutely no basis for these speculations.”
What the police minister told Parliament
With allegations levelled against Lieutenant-General Mdluli, we want to say processes which are currently before our criminal justice system would have to be observed by all to their logical conclusions.
Allegations were levelled against the division’s head, Lt-Gen Mdluli, insofar as it related to mismanagement of funds and nepotism. The inspector general of intelligence has the legal mandate of oversight with regard to the financial management of crime intelligence ... she is further able to look into any other issue that may arise in the course of this investigation. And contrary to what the media is saying, this investigation is still in process. We are not going to be subjected to any public, analysts or media courts.
There have been unfortunate public accusations and counter-accusations within the management of SAPS. What seems to have sparked this is a widely reported letter, which Lt-Gen Mdluli is reported to have written to, among others, the minister of police. This letter seems to have political connotations and has caused tensions within the management of SAPS. It alludes to some conspiracy theory of some in the management ganging up against him. I have instituted a task team, led by the state law adviser, to investigate such allegations because they are so serious as to suggest the meddling of policing functions in politics… we have, in consultation with the acting national police commissioner, decided that Lt-Gen Mdluli should be shifted from his current position, with effect on Thursday, as the head of crime intelligence and moved to another division, as determined by the acting national police commissioner.
Lt-Gen Mdluli has been informed of the decision and has pledged his support to the process.