Richard Mdluli will have to wait three weeks before he finds out whether or not his suspension as head of crime intelligence is lifted.
But the spy boss’s bid to reclaim his job was likely to be decided in the Pretoria High Court today without him making any legal representation.
Mdluli will have an unlikely sympathiser in the SAPS, which suspended him for the second time on May 27.
The SAPS will fight it out with pressure group Freedom Under Law (FUL), which has filed legal papers to interdict Mdluli from performing any duties as a police officer pending the outcome of criminal and disciplinary charges against him.
Corruption Watch and the Social Justice Coalition have also lodged legal papers to join Freedom Under Law’s application as friends of the court, on an advisory basis.
Freedom Under Law lodged its application after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa reinstated Mdluli on March 31, following the withdrawal of criminal and disciplinary charges against him.
Mdluli was then moved to the intelligence operatives division before acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, suspended him on May 27.
Mdluli was suspended pending the outcome of an inquest into the death of his ex-girlfriend’s former husband, Oupa Ramogibe.
Despite this, Freedom Under Law pressed ahead with legal action to stop Mdluli serving as a police officer.
In its founding affidavit on May 15, the body argued the way the Mdluli matter had been dealt with was “partial and selective” and reflected “an extraordinary degree of a lack of accountability…”
The withdrawal of criminal and disciplinary charges against Mdluli was “unlawful and unconstitutional”, it argued.
Dr Mamphela Ramphele is listed as a deponent (witness) in Freedom Under Law’s founding affidavit.
In correspondence with the SAPS that Independent Newspapers has seen, Freedom Under Law cited statements by Mdluli’s attorney, Ike Motloung, denying that his client (Mdluli) had been notified formally of his suspension.
The possibility that Mdluli’s suspension could be withdrawn before the finalisation of Freedom Under Law’s court application also played a role in it going ahead with the court bid.
In turn, the SAPS argued that the granting of an interim order could set a dangerous precedent. It could interfere with the employer-employee relationship and contravened labour laws.
“It is imperative for the SAPS to follow due process before it suspends any of its employees,” read the court papers.
“Section 23 of the constitution… (states) everyone has the right to fair labour practices. (Mdluli) as an SAPS employee enjoys protection in terms of this section and is entitled to ‘fair labour practices’,” the police said in papers before court.
The SAPS further contended that Freedom Under Law had lodged its legal papers aware that Mdluli – before his suspension on May 27 – had been served with a notice of an intention to suspend on May 15.
But Freedom Under Law argued that Mdluli’s reinstatement undermined the morale of other police officers in their efforts to effectively prevent and combat crime.
“It is an inherently urgent concern that a person holding the rank of (crime intelligence head)… should perform a single function as a policeman, while the body of evidence against him – that he has committed crimes ranging from murder and kidnapping to corruption and money-laundering – remains unanswered,” read the court papers.
Freedom Under Law also contended that the withdrawal of charges against Mdluli and his subsequent reinstatement “has always been accompanied by allegations of improper political interference”.
Yesterday, the Johannesburg Labour Court set down June 21 as the date for the hearing into Mdluli’s application challenging his suspension.
Cosatu yesterday welcomed the court’s decision to reinstate Mdluli’s suspension. Spokesman Patrick Craven urged the SAPS, Hawks and Public Protector “to urgently investigate all the extremely serious allegations made against him, including fraud, misusing slush funds, and illegally hiring relatives’’.
“As the body charged with enforcing the law, the SAPS has to be scrupulous in investigating, and where there is evidence, charging and bringing to justice, any of its members found to be involved in crime, especially when the allegations are so serious and directed at someone so senior in the SAPS hierarchy,’’ Craven said.
“The vast majority of South Africans, in the public and private sectors, are honest and conscientious. That makes it even more crucial to weed out the corrupt, rotten minority who have such a deadly effect on our society, bring them before the courts and put them behind bars.”