Hawks notch up successes in cases involving theft of millions, drug trafficking, and high-level graft

National head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks) Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya and his management holding a media briefing to outline and take stock of milestones achieved since the previous quarter. Picture: GCIS/Ntswe Mokoena

National head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks) Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya and his management holding a media briefing to outline and take stock of milestones achieved since the previous quarter. Picture: GCIS/Ntswe Mokoena

Published Mar 12, 2023


Durban — A cash-in-transit security guard who stole millions, a drug trafficker, and high-ranking officials arrested for fraud and corruption were some of the successes achieved by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (the Hawks).

On Friday, Hawks head Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya shared some of the outcomes of the Hawks’ investigations during the third quarter of the 2022/2023 financial year, his third public update on the successes achieved by the high-level crime-fighting unit.

Lebeya said the Hawks had arrested at least 803 suspects who were successfully brought before the various courts across the country in the third quarter of this financial year. He said 229 accused persons had been convicted and sentenced.

Lebeya said that, of these criminals, 12 were serving 17 life terms of imprisonment. These arrests meant that the number of accused persons on the court rolls was more than 11 673. He said that 1 936 cases under investigation had reached a decisive stage, and teams from the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority were assessing them.

The head highlighted only 32 cases which failed, which constitutes just 3% of the 1 032 successes.

Lebeya said that, while 26 police officials had been killed in the third quarter of last year, 22 suspects had been arrested in respect of these heinous crimes. Six accused persons had been convicted and sentenced for these deaths. Of these, four had been sentenced to life imprisonment.

On cash-in-transit robberies, he said that, having noted the report on crime statistics for 57 incidents in the third quarter of 2022/2023, 21 arrests had been effected, with three of those having been killed in police and/or security company actions. Nine convictions were secured, with a combined sentence of six life sentences and 581 years’ imprisonment.

On the theft of fuel from pipelines, Lebeya said that almost 8.5 million litres of fuel, valued at approximately R102 million, had been stolen from national Transnet pipes in the last year, which had led to the arrest of 49 suspects in the third quarter.

“This brings the total number of arrests to 210 suspects since December 2019, when the crime was classified as a matter requiring the attention of the DPCI. We have also secured the conviction of 10 accused persons since,” Lebeya said.

On drugs, Lebeya said that four clandestine narcotics laboratories had been dismantled in the third quarter, and a total of 10 suspects had been arrested.

“Various drugs – including mandrax, cocaine, Tik, and dagga to the potential economic value of R23 566 980 were seized,” Lebeya said.

On asset forfeiture investigations, Lebeya said that, during the three quarters of the financial year, the Hawks, through the asset forfeiture investigation division, had collaborated with the Asset Forfeiture Unit and secured seven restraint orders valued at R145 465 736, 101 preservation orders amounting to R110 577 380, 13 confiscation orders worth R30 916 990, and 77 forfeiture orders to the value of R34 717 486.

Lebeya said the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigations emanated from the conclusions of the TRC.

“The dedicated team received 146 cases for investigation, which are receiving attention. Four criminal cases are in court, eight cases are before the Inquest Court, 18 cases are pending, while eight cases have been finalised,” Lebeya said.

On Covid-19 funds, Lebeya said that on December 31 last year 259 cases had been registered, and now 193 accused persons had been charged. Some 42 court cases had been finalised, with 40 convictions and two acquittals, which was a 95% conviction rate.

How KwaZulu-Natal featured in Hawks’ successes:

Police at the scene of a cash-in-transit robbery on the R102 in Hibberdene. Picture Supplied

Cash-in-transit robbery:

On August 1, 2019, when security guards were delivering cash at a pension payout point in Hibberdene, they were accosted by cash-in-transit robbers. A security guard was shot dead and the suspects fled the scene empty-handed.

Six suspects – Thulani Cwele, 33, Mpumelelo Ntshangase, 47, Bongani Madlala, 50, Zenzele Gumede, 40, Bheki Ndlovu, 45, and Zwanani Cele, 34 – were arrested. The matter was handled by the Hawks’ serious organised crime investigation in Port Shepstone.

An AK-47 rifle with 15 rounds of ammunition, an R4 rifle with 17 rounds of ammunition, and a 9mm pistol with 12 rounds of ammunition were seized during the arrest.

The accused’s bail application was successfully opposed, and they were found guilty.

“On Monday, November 28 last year, the high court sitting at Scottburgh sentenced six armed robbers to life imprisonment for murder, attempted cash-in-transit (robbery), attempted murder, and possession of unlicensed firearms as well as ammunition,” Lebeya said.

“Each accused was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years’ imprisonment for attempted robbery, five years’ imprisonment for three counts of attempted murder, 15 years’ imprisonment for three counts of possession of unlicensed firearms, and three years’ imprisonment for possession of unlicensed ammunition.”

Two accomplices were arrested in 2020 on the N3 near Hilton with 30 000 mandrax tablets with a street value of approximately R1.5 million. Picture: Supplied

Drug-related offences:

Lebeya said that on October 7, 2020, information was received about a vehicle travelling from Gauteng to KZN with a large consignment of drugs. An operation was put in place, and the vehicle was intercepted on the N3 in the Hilton area. During the search, a bag containing 30 000 mandrax tablets with an estimated street value of R1 500 000 was found, and Zolile Zikalala was arrested.

“The accused was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment or a fine of R1 million, as well as a further five years’ imprisonment that is suspended for five years,” Lebeya said.

He said the R1 million fine was to be paid as follows:

  • R150 000 was to be paid by December 7 last year.
  • R50 000 was to be paid before December 8 last year.
  • R15 000 was to be paid on a monthly basis from 7 February this year until the whole fine was paid off.

The accused was declared unfit to possess a firearm.

“May I indicate that we are currently seized with the investigation of 31 organised criminal groups,” Lebeya added.

Forfeiture order granted in stealing CIT security guard matter:

Lebeya said that on October 8, 2020 Wiseman Mbuyazi, 33, who was employed by G4S security company and was responsible for replenishing ATMs stole approximately R3.5 million over a period of two months and fled.

The Hawks’ serious corruption investigation successfully traced and arrested Mbuyazi at his hideout in Ntuzuma, KZN. The Hawks’ priority crime specialised investigation has successfully secured a final asset forfeiture order to the value of just over R1.5 million against the now-deceased former G4S security guard Mbuyazi.

An amount of R80 000 together with a Hyundai Accent allegedly bought with the proceeds of the crime were recovered during the arrest. It was further established that he had paid some of the loot into an attorneys’ trust account to purchase a house in Cosmo City, which he intended to register in his younger brother’s name.

“Mbuyazi was denied bail after numerous attempts and eventually died in prison whilst his theft and money-laundering cases were still in court,” Lebeya said.

He said that on October 26 last year the Johannesburg High Court granted a final order arising out of a case of theft of R 3.5 million.

Mhlathuze Water fraud and corruption:

Lebeya said that on December 2 last year the NPA’s Asset Forfeiture Unit in KZN, as part of a multidisciplinary task team comprising the SAPS and the national clean audit task team of the Hawks, seized the assets of several accused persons charged with fraud and corruption in the Mhlathuze Water matter to the value of R37 million.

This relates to allegations against Mthokozisi Duze (chief executive) and Mthokozisi Duze (chief financial officer) of Mhlathuze Water, as well as Babongile Mnyandu and Sithembelo Ralph Mhlanga (attorney), whose arrest on August 29 last year was reflected in the second quarter.

The assets seized included immovable property located in KZN and the Western Cape, luxury vehicles such as a Range Rover, a BMW X6, a Mercedes V-Class, a Jaguar, and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

The criminal matter was postponed to April 6 in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court.

Couple arrested for fraud:

Lebeya said that on Monday, November 15 last year, Hawks members from Durban serious corruption investigation arrested Amanda Lowton, 50, and her spouse, Mark Lowton, 56, for fraud and money laundering.

“An internal investigation discovered that 248 fraudulent payments to the amount of R122 269 042 had been made into four bank accounts belonging to Mark. After receipt of funds, a percentage was paid to the company’s suppliers and the balance of R47 545 616 was retained,” Lebeya said.

The couple appeared in the Durban Specialised Commercial Crime Court, and the case was postponed to April 21.

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