GCWALISILE KHANYILE AND DIANNE HAWKER
Acting police chief Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi wants a massive clean-up of police crime intelligence, including suspending its former head, Lieutenant General, Richard Mdluli.
Mkhwanazi confirmed to The Sunday Independent that no one linked to corruption would be spared. “I am a cop. I want the police environment to have clean cops. If we want to fight crime we must rid the SAPS of criminals and stay with clean cops,” Mkhwanazi said.
A source close to Mkhwanazi said he would suspend Mdluli and secret services account chief financial officer Major-General Solly Lazarus this week.
Mkhwanazi is said to have received information of widespread looting of the account that implicated many people in the division – including high-ranking officials.
There was information that travel claims had been abused – an allegation which Hawks investigators had also heard from a key witness and reported to the head of the anti-corruption task team in March.
Sources claimed that Mkhwanazi also planned to institute disciplinary action against senior managers who had allegedly given state cars to clerks and cashiers without authorisation.
Others were also believed to be using state funds to pay for fuel.
Last Sunday Mkhwanazi signed two notices of suspension, which were delivered to Mdluli and Lazarus. Both men now have to provide reasons why they should not be suspended.
The SAPS has refused to comment on the suspension notices.
“Whenever a departmental notice is issued, the matter is regarded to be between the employer and employee and is handled as such,” spokesman Brigadier Lindela Mashigo said yesterday.
Mdluli’s lawyer, Ike Motloung, did not respond to calls and SMSes. Lazarus did not respond to queries.
Lazarus had administered the account and Hawks investigators had stumbled across information about its misuse once they began probing a decade-old love triangle murder allegation against Mdluli.
A Hawks investigation, which has allegedly been frustrated at every turn, uncovered evidence that Mdluli allegedly used the secret account to buy two luxury vehicles, found at his wife’s home.
A crime intelligence member who provided information is now in witness protection.
A report by Hawks investigator Colonel Kobus Roelofse was part of papers submitted to court this week by lobby group Freedom Under Law, in a bid to have Mdluli removed and criminally charged.
It appears the evidence provided by the witness, and that gleaned by Mkhwanazi’s own fact-finding mission, will lead to more suspensions and criminal charges.
“(Mkhwanazi) has an unwavering determination to tackle crime and root out… corruption within and outside of the police service. The issue of a slush fund forms part of a broader probe by the inspector-general of intelligence which is currently under way,” Mashigo said.
Mkhwanazi has apparently requested a full report on how the slush fund was used.
Mdluli was suspended and arrested early last year, but murder and fraud charges were provisionally withdrawn and he was reinstated.
Lazarus was suspended in December over alleged financial and tender irregularities worth millions, but was reinstated in March.
According to Roelofse’s report, Lazarus and others linked to him had tried to silence the Hawks witness by interrogating him at Lazarus’s home.
After the witness was placed in a safe house, one of Lazarus’s relatives, also an intelligence operative, allegedly tried to locate him.
In court papers, Freedom Under Law board member Mamphela Ramphele said: “The reinstatement of General Mdluli into office, without prosecution of criminal and disciplinary charges against him, has caused serious controversy, material lack of trust within and outside the ranks of SAPS, as well as instability in SAPS, more particularly at its leadership level”.
Ramphele criticised the decision by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to move Mdluli to another unit, saying Mthethwa “accepted that there was a need to act, but has not initiated suspension proceedings”.
Roelofse has warned that crime intelligence operatives who are suspected of criminal activity and left unchecked could be a threat to state security.
It is clear Roelofse believed that the claims which he and Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Viljoen were investigating are the tip of the iceberg.
Meanwhile, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has also raised concerns about the Mdluli case’s effect on state security.
He has accused Mdluli of using state resources to fight political battles and asked the public protector to probe the origins of the “Ground Coverage Report”, which implicated Sexwale in a plot to oust President Jacob Zuma.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela is considering whether to investigate Mdluli for possible abuse of power and state resources.
Madonsela’s spokeswoman, Kgalalelo Masibi, said the complaint from Sexwale was still being assessed and a decision would be made within seven days.
Sexwale’s affidavit to Madonsela was listed as one of the documents that were stolen during a break-in at the home of his lawyer, Menzi Sikhakhane.
A few weeks ago Mdluli was quoted in the media saying he did not pen the Ground Coverage Report and that his signature was forged during the declassification of the report.