The Hawks intercepted phone conversations of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi Wa Afrika, the inspector-general of intelligence has confirmed.
The reporter was arrested in August last year, days after the newspaper published articles about the multibillion-rand police headquarters scandal.
Investigations have since found there was questionable conduct by Public Works Minister Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde and national police commissioner General Bheki Cele in concluding the leases.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found Cele’s role amounted to “unlawful” conduct and “maladministration”.
At the time of Wa Afrika’s arrest, police said they were investigating allegations that he was in possession of a “fake” resignation letter by Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza.
Wa Afrika was later released without charges being brought and he has since filed a wrongful arrest suit against the state, a move police have said they will oppose.
Cele was recently asked to provide President Jacob Zuma with reasons why he should not be suspended pending a board of inquiry into his fitness for office.
“I’m going to be here until my job is done,” Cele said. “There is work to be done and I am doing it. Let me repeat myself, I’m going to be here until my work is done. I’m not thinking so, I’m telling you so.”
In response to inquiries by the Sunday Times, the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Faith Radebe, confirmed that Wa Afrika’s phones had been tapped as part of a “lawful investigative method”.
Radebe was asked to investigate harassment and intimidation, including alleged death threats, of Sunday Times journalists, notably Wa Afrika and investigative journalist Stephan Hofstatter.
This followed tip-offs from sources in the police and intelligence environment that the journalists’ movements and calls were being “monitored”.
Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley has described the interceptions as “appalling”.
“It is abundantly clear that the criminal justice system has been abused to harass and intimidate (Wa Afrika). The judge who authorised this ‘surveillance’ and the police officers who requested it should hang their heads in shame. They are complicit in an assault on our constitutional values.”
It is unclear how Wa Afrika’s alleged possession of a “fake” resignation letter by a politician would meet Rica requirements that the police apply for interception orders only in cases involving “serious offences” and only after all other investigative methods had failed to produce results. - Political Bureau