According to five sources, and independently of each other - including two intelligence sources, a senior government official and a lawyer for one of the accused - former State Security Agency (SSA) director-general Arthur Fraser and former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni are also being investigated.
The probe into Mkhwebane relates to the death of her husband, Mpho Tshehla, who committed suicide at their home in Centurion, Pretoria, in 2006.
She also faces a charge of alleged money laundering during her time as a diplomat in China, in connection with the transfer of millions of rand without declaring it to the SA Reserve Bank.
Intelligence sources said the police paid Magashule a surprise visit at his Luthuli House office on Tuesday and took a statement from him.
He was accused of giving away a state-owned painting by South African landscape master Jacobus Pierneef, worth an estimated R8million, to one of his bodyguards while he was Free State premier.
In a response to a parliamentary question from Roy Jankielsohn, DA MPL and leader of the opposition in the Free State Legislature, the Free State premier confirmed in March that the police were probing Magashule for theft of a painting.
“The investigation was finalised. The Pierneef painting has been recovered and was handed over to the office of the premier. The case was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for decision,” said the premier, according to a statement released by Jankielsohn at the time.
On Saturday, Magashule confirmed that police officers visited him at his office and took a statement, but refused to comment further.
Independent Media has established that Fraser this week received a notice from his bank of more than 20 years that it was closing his account on May 22.
The bank was said to have cited “reputational risk” as the reason for its decision.
Independent Media could not independently verify this with the bank.
It is understood that Fraser, who is now the country’s prisons boss, was being investigated for his alleged role in the looting of a SSA slush fund.
Fraser declined to confirm that he received a notice from a bank about his account. But a source close to him confirmed receipt of the notice, adding that he planned to challenge the bank.
It is believed investigators told Fraser they were acting on allegations disclosed in author Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers.
“I know Arthur is meeting with his lawyers over the weekend to respond to the bank and make it clear that they are going to challenge the closure of his account,” said the source.
The move on Mkhwebane comes amid her probe into the SA Revenue Service (Sars) so-called rogue unit and the alleged role of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan in its formation and running when he was Sars commissioner between 1998 and 2009.
Last month, State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba laid criminal charges against Mkhwebane.
The public protector then laid counter-charges against the minister. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, failed to respond to questions sent on Thursday for comment.
In a telephone interview this week, Mkhwebane said while she was aware of the previous plan to arrest her for possession of a classified document, the latest move had taken her by surprise.
“It is the first time I hear that they plan to do that. But... I had information three months ago that apparently they are still trying to find a way of charging me with something,” said Mkhwebane, adding that the motive was to “cause confusion”.
Mkhwebane said the probe was a “bold threat” to stop her from doing her job. She confirmed that her husband committed suicide in 2006, but said no foul play was ever suspected.
“He had major depression; he checked himself out of the clinic, went home, called his father and informed him that he was taking his own life.
“There was no suicide note,” insisted Mkhwebane.
She admitted to have transferred money back to South Africa but denied any involvement in money laundering.
“There is no huge amount of money which I transferred to South Africa, besides the fact that when I was still in China I sold my property and then I bought another property whilst I was still a diplomat ...
“When I left China, I closed my bank account in Hong Kong and transferred the money here.”
Mkhwebane maintained that as a diplomat, she was paid a salary and allowances by the Department of International Relations.
She said no law required diplomats to declare their stipends.
Myeni on Saturday said she was not aware of any probe into her by any law enforcement agency.
Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi on Saturday denied that the elite crime-busting unit was probing Magashule, Fraser, Mkhwebane, Myeni and others for various crimes. He also denied they had taken a statement from Magashule.
“It is nonsense. It has got nothing to do with the Hawks,” Mulaudzi said.