Violence monitor pens open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 7, 2023


Dear Honourable President Ramaphosa,

I note that you have advised the recently departed Eskom head de Ruyter to report his allegations about gross, systemic corruption to the authorities for an independent investigation. Tell us who, in our criminal justice system, can exercise “independent” investigation of any politicians or their surrogates in government employ, for reasons I explain – reasons which also have a crucial bearing on your long-awaited cabinet reshuffle.

While, in terms of the Constitution, you appoint the National Commissioner of the SAPS, it is obvious that, in the case of the current incumbent, it is your minister of police who instructed you who to appoint. We know you had told corruption-fighter Thabiso Zulu that he would receive protection, but you were overruled by the self-same minister who seems to call all the shots. You are personally being accused of possibly breaching the Constitution in the infamous Phala Phala matter.

However, far more telling evidence against you is your appointment (and, extraordinarily, in July 2021, retention of) Minister of Police Cele, for it is patently obvious that he has absolutely no understanding of his oath of office to the Constitution (which was already abundantly clear when he was SAPS national commissioner). He not only fails to prevent crime, but he fuels it, including by his refusal to protect the lives of corruption-fighters Thabiso Zulu and Patricia Mashale, and by giving his police carte blanche to kill them.

The Hawks have no independence because their head, thanks to changes in the Police Act following the demise of the Scorpions, is appointed by the Minister, who is currently – and completely irregularly – overseeing investigations into political violence in KZN, in which his political comrades may be suspects. Even oversight bodies lack independence. Six years ago, the Constitutional Court ruled that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) had to be independent. The legislation finally tabled for comment in late 2022 is pathetic, and does not cut the ties between the minister and IPID, as is the norm in democraticies.

The minister also appoints the head of the Civilian Secretariat whose opaque activities have no noticeable impact on gross policing abuses, including continuing, alarming, rates of torture, and deaths in custody at their hands.

That the current minister, Cele, obviously runs SAPS operations himself is unconstitutional. Take, for example, one of his recent, outrageous appointments, that of Advocate Chamane to head SAPS Legal Services. Chamane has been a legal advisor of Cele’s since his days as MEC in KZN (2004-2009) and, among allegations against him in legal circles, is that he has no experience in court work, and gives very poor legal advice. He, like Cele, has at least one outstanding criminal case opened against him, of alleged fraud (Pretoria Central CAS 24/10/2020).

This is a very interesting case, in that it relates to Cele’s application to the High Court for the findings of Judge Moloi which led to his dismissal as National Commissioner to be set aside. It has been impossible to locate any proof of his assertion that they have been set aside, and it is disputed in legal circles. Given that he is on record as having contradicted himself when giving evidence, it would be puzzling if the findings had indeed been set aside (nor should the two adverse Public Protector findings be forgotten) CAS 24/10/2020 deals with costs incurred in Cele’s court application after he became your minister, allegedly paid to Chamane from SAPS funds for what was a private matter.

Cele’s review application had originally been brought against, among others, the president, the minister of police and the national commissioner of police – the respondents. So now, as minister, he is both the applicant and the respondent! The case against Chamane is being investigated by the Hawks, and – quite understandably – SAPS management is ducking and diving when financial information is requested. It is not known who is investigating the minister himself – which of course, has bearing on any criminal matters relating to ministers, including in the Eskom case.

Your own reasons for appointing a man who had been dismissed in disgrace by your predecessor, and who should have been criminally charged for corruption then, are best known to yourself. Perhaps more to the point, though, is one case which is a prime example of how even the prosecution service – which is beset with very serious problems itself – appears to cover for ministers.

It is well known that former KZN SAPS commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni, who Cele as national commissioner, parachuted from the obscurity of a mismanaged Ulundi station to become provincial commissioner, is being charged, together with Zuma benefactor Thoshan Panday, for corruption relating to a 2010 World Cup tender. (all these politically linked cases drag on for so many years they tend to disappear from public sight). Well, it was Cele, as then national commissioner and accounting officer, who signed off on the crooked deal. Since you are currently applying your mind to a cabinet reshuffle, I shall attach the document bearing his signature (and please bear in mind that there is at least one criminal case against him currently).

I wrote to the National Director of Public Prosecutions several months ago asking why he had not been charged. I did not receive an answer. Whether the failure of the Hawks to charge Cele had anything to do with the fact that its then head became his advisor when he was appointed minister is not known.

I do not know if you are aware of the contents of former deputy SAPS commissioner Vuma’s Protected Disclosure of July 2022. She herself had been in the belly of the corrupt SAPS beast for years, and took the main blame for the attempted acquisition of the Nasrec “grabber” device when she was, of course, simply following instructions from then Minister Mbalula, as had become a norm in the SAPS and other government departments during the Zuma years – which is, of course, completely unconstitutional. Vuma alleges – probably correctly given what I have on record from countless other SAPS members – that she was suspended because she refused to take instructions about procurement, including from Cele himself.

I shall also treat you to a copy of her disclosure and please note (1) the seriousness of her allegations and who she implicates (about which there is already damning evidence from other sources) and (2) the fact that she puts on record that she fears for her life – as, with good reason, do all whistle-blowers, especially against the government. Yet you expect De Ruyter, who has survived a poisoning attempt, to place his trust in crooks who run what you misleadingly describe as “independent” investigations. Since 1994 I have noted how our most credible detectives are sidelined, and even maliciously prosecuted, while those favoured by politicians flourish – a tendency which has escalated out of control since 2009.

Who do you suggest investigates Vuma’s very serious allegations? Let me give you another example of the virtual impossibility of getting any independent investigation against someone prominent in governance, no matter how heinous the consequences of their corruption: Dr “Death” Dhlomo, who should have long been struck off by the HPCSA as a doctor by now, but who you, in your wisdom, saw fit to elevate to deputy minister of health.

During his disastrous tenure as MEC for health in KZN with a history of being a political cash cow – irregular spending ballooned to billions of rand every year. Dhlomo bears responsibility for the painful, preventable deaths of countless hundreds of cancer patients (while the figure of deaths is unknown, the casualties must be far higher than those in the Life Esidimeni tragedy, whose families, unlike those of the cancer patients, have at least had some modicum of justice; I personally intervened to obtain pain medication for some patients near death). These deaths resulted from gross corruption linked to state of the art, almost new, oncology machines which were deliberately not serviced – raising questions about where the money provided for that by Treasury had disappeared. Dr Dhlomo lied to the portfolio committee about it – and then the national health minister, Motsoaledi, covered for him by misleading Parliament about why the new machines were not operating.

To make matters worse, a well-connected oncologist was permitted to tamper with the machines, and one was damaged beyond control. Not only was this in breach of the PFMA, but also the Hazardous Substances Act. A KZN Treasury forensic report, spurred by some excellent investigative journalism, found the CEO and other senior officials in Health responsible for breach of legislation (they quickly left and went elsewhere) and Treasury confirmed, in writing, that Dhlomo knew about it. He did not report it, as required by the anti-corruption legislation.

All of this is spelt out in great detail in a lengthy report by the Medical Rights Advocacy Network, of which I am a member, which was sent to the SAHRC (we had also made a presentation about it to the provincial legislature, but no action was taken). Despite more than one follow-up, the HRC did nothing about it. It has, unfortunately, become obvious to me that Chapter 9 bodies – who have constantly let people down in matters I am familiar with, and provide details of – fear to rock any political boats and I know of one case in which a clear threat has been made to the SAHRC by a minister in your government.

I then reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions, in 2019 and was advised to approach the Hawks, which I did. Despite providing all the documentation, nothing materialised (I also requested action from the ANC integrity committee, but I did not get it, and Dhlomo was rewarded for his malfeasance that killed people). I then, in 2021, approached the Special Investigation Unit, and, with a MeRAN colleague, even attended a remote meeting with them.

We were advised that, since the Hawks – who were represented at the meeting – were investigating, they should continue with it. We have heard nothing since then from anyone. I should mention that he also bears responsibility, as MEC, for the ruination of forensic mortuary services in KZN through ignoring the repeated appeals of professional staff and overtly colluding with unqualified mortuary workers engaged in dangerous, criminal behaviour, including illegal strikes. There were fears for the safety of doctors working in the main Durban facility.

Forensic mortuaries in KZN, including the big ones in Durban, remain dysfunctional – perhaps even more so – 10 years later, with experienced pathologists having moved elsewhere. The consequences for justice are very serious. They are a cover for trade in body parts, and even whole bodies disappear. Again, there is a very detailed MeRAN report which was sent to the Law Commission in 2019, requesting a review of legislation, but we have had no feedback at all. Dr Mkhize, then the Premier of KZN, was aware of the mortuary crisis but chose not to intervene, presumably to also cover for Dhlomo. I also remind you of my letter addressed to you, dated 7 June 2021 titled “Failure of Dr Mkhize to Report to Parliament and Conduct of Dr Dhlomo”, which was accompanied by my trailing email to the ANC Integrity Committee.

Dhlomo had also succeeded in closing down a wonderful, affordable hospital – McCords Mission Hospital, which had withstood the onslaught by apartheid – for reasons which were allegedly linked to planned shady business deals. Because the board of the hospital fought back, it was eventually retained as a government hospital, but no longer serves the interests of all those patients who could seek treatment at a reasonable cost, and now flock to over-crowded, atrociously run and maintained, government health facilities. That he was ever appointed to cabinet is an insult to the painful deaths of countless cancer patients due to his gross corruption.

Regarding Cele, there is currently speculation about whether he will retain his Cabinet position, and media-fuelled rumours abound. I have raised the question of why you had ever appointed a man found to be utterly dishonest – who should have been charged for corruption years ago – as police minister in the first place, and I have given you additional evidence of corruption and the fact that he not only trashes his oath of office, behaves in an unconstitutional manner, is running the SAPS into utter ruin, and poses a threat to the lives of whistle-blowers and the general public alike because of the serious damage he is, personally, doing to policing.

There are rumours that Cele might be replaced by Minister Motsoaledi. Well, from what I have told you about his protection of arch health villain Dhlomo – does corruption get any worse than killing cancer patients – he is hardly Mr Clean, and his record in Home Affairs suggests that he has scant regard for human rights. Someone with legal expertise and a commitment to human rights is needed as police minister, together with the immediate establishment of an Independent Policing Board, as set out in the 2018 report of the post-Marikana panel of experts, and the de-militarisation of the police, as envisaged by the National Development Plan you were part of.

Policing problems are exacerbated by the capture of a significant sector of the Prosecuting Authority which colludes with corrupt police members, so crisis action is needed quite apart from cabinet reshuffling: A priority is the immediate establishment of a Police ombuds body headed by a retired judge assisted by experienced advocates and staff seconded from the Auditor-General’s office, which can do forensic audits of qualifications, appointments and promotions.

All this talk of the importance of whistle-blowers, and supposedly independent investigations is yet more political hot air. Currently, corrupt police, including in CIS, are being assisted by a magistrate in the Bloemfontein Regional Court to hunt down Patricia Mashale who is in hiding with a warrant of arrest (linked to a malicious prosecution related to a suspicious harassment order obtained by a management member accused of serious corruption) and deny bail, so that the police can kill her. I thought our courts were supposed to protect life, and uphold the Constitution, but this magistrate obviously has scant regard for the Constitution, and will be among those reported to the Magistrate’s Commission. Mashale’s lawyers have no option but to approach the High Court.

Finally, there also rumours that Minister Cele may be removed to a resurrected State Security Department. Heaven help South Africa – State Security is already riddled with problems and the urgent action recommended four years ago to pass legislation to regain civilian oversight has not yet materialised. Cele is already running the SAPS like the apartheid police, so would be able to get away with even more, covert, activities subversive to the ends of justice than he currently is.

Until he is prosecuted and removed altogether from governance Cele will continue to meddle in policing because he has planted his eyes and ears there in management should he be deployed to State Security, he and his dangerous cohorts will have even more powers to hunt down and kill the whistle-blowers who have effectively become Enemies of the Criminalised State which you, as president, have done nothing to de-criminalise. Instead of expecting De Ruyter to trust your grossly malfunctioning criminal justice system, please tell us why minister Cele has not yet been charged, and when he will be.

Your Cabinet re-shuffle will be proverbial “Proof of the Pudding in the eating” of your presidency.

Mary de Haas is a violence monitor in KZN

Mary de Haas

Daily News