Acting police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi dropped a bombshell in Parliament on Thursday when he told MPs that “powers beyond us” had been telling him who he could or could not investigate – suggesting illegal political interference in investigative decisions.
Answering an unrelated question about poor conviction rates, Mkhwanazi said “we have been told in many instances of late that we don’t have the right to investigate certain case dockets”.
He had been instructed by “powers beyond us” to “release some case dockets to the inspector-general for Intelligence’, in what seems to have been a thinly masked reference to criminal investigations against Crime Intelligence Division (CID) boss Richard Mdluli.
“There are powers beyond us that are going to decide whether there is a conviction or not. It’s all good that we say we want to achieve this target of conviction, but we are not prosecutors. We are not judges,” he said.
Mkhwanazi did not say who had given him these instructions and IOL could not get clarification on his comments.
Mdluli stands accused – in an internal police investigation report – of plundering the CID’s secret service account to buy cars, houses, holidays and to illegally employing family members as so-called “covert agents”. He also faced murder charges last year relating to the unexplained death in 1999 of Oupa Ramogibe, the husband of Mdluli’s then girlfriend.
This criminal investigation has since been abandoned in favour of an inquest.
And the internal corruption probe was mysteriously dropped on the orders of a senior National Prosecuting Authority official despite the inspector-general for Intelligence, Faith Radebe, recommending Mdluli be prosecuted – and against the advice of NPA staff.
Shortly before the internal probe was dropped, Mdluli is believed to have appealed to President Jacob Zuma for help. In a letter last year, Mdluli is understood to have claimed that the probe into his financial affairs was part of a political conspiracy hatched by Zuma’s political enemies – reported to include suspended national commissioner Bheki Cele.
Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj has since denied that Zuma played any part in the decision to drop charges – or that Zuma and Mdluli had any private connection. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has also denied involvement in Mdluli’s side-stepping of charges.
Mdluli has since been reinstated to head the CID where he is in charge of the police’s slush fund, but Mkhwanazi told MPs on Wednesday that he was still the subject of a departmental enquiry. To date, no explanation has been given for the decision to reinstate Mdluli.
Speaking after Thursday’s meeting, DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard said Mkhwanazi “does not appear to under- stand the full implications of his revelations”.
“He has admitted openly what we have always assumed to be the case – that there is political interference in the SAPS. Remember, the (now defunct) Scorpions investigated too many ANC members and were consequently shut down. (Mkhwanazi) has today confirmed that SAPS members have received instructions not to investigate certain matters,” she added.
Mkhwanazi’s comments came after hostile questioning by members of Parliament’s police committee during hearings into the police’s strategic plan. The comments appear to confirm reports that Mkhwanazi was forced to hand over the Mdluli matter to Radebe.
Tension between Mkhwanazi and Mdluli, who attended some of the sessions, was palpable as the acting commissioner seemed reluctant to allow the CID boss a turn to speak in the committee. It has been suggested that Mkhwanazi was angered by the political interference in police matters – and is believed to have threatened to resign if Mdluli returned to work.
Police corruption, the elephant in the room during the hearings, came to a head on Thursday when MPs warned that the service was rotting from within.
One after another, MPs from across the political spectrum lambasted senior police managers, including Mkhwanazi, after the top brass pleaded for extra funds.
What began as a hearing sympathetic to the police’s budget constraints turned into a barrage of criticism as the conversation moved from what the police required to do their jobs, to the savings that could be achieved by simply cutting out waste and graft.
Annelize van Wyk (ANC) led the charge, noting that the police had incurred irregular expenditure of R75 million last year – and spent R150m on “entertainment”. She pointed out that these amounts alone would cover the additional funding police management was requesting for the detective services.
Kohler Barnard complained about the tendency for police caught with their fingers in the till to be placed on early retirement – with golden parachutes – instead of being investigated and prosecuted.
Van Wyk also slammed managers for allowing corruption in the police’s supply-chain management function – dealing with tenders and purchases – to “chisel away at your money for years and years”.
Velaphi Ndlovu (IFP) asked which officers had been arrested and jailed for graft, but was met with silence. Only later did an official point out that the Special Investigating Unit was investigating SAPS corruption issues and that the police had asked for this probe. - Political Bureau