The lunacy at the SAPS Crime Intelligence Division continued last month with top policemen being locked out of their offices for no apparent reason, and an allegedly drunken and debt-ridden colonel tasked with securing the nation’s secrets, spending much of his time hiding his Mercedes Benz from angry creditors seeking to repossess the vehicle.
In the midst of this chaos, President Jacob Zuma appears to have been transforming the division to act as his own personal spying agency – of dubious legality.
The Mail & Guardian recently revealed that in October one of Zuma’s most trusted bodyguards, Brigadier KB “Bhoyi” Ngcobo, a senior member of the Presidential Protection Unit, was appointed acting head of Crime Intelligence Collection in the police’s Crime Intelligence Division by acting national Police Commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi. The M&G’s sources claimed his promotion is part of the Zumafication of intelligence structures aimed at ensuring that the president gets his second term in office.
Ngcobo will report to Richard Mdluli, divisional commissioner for crime intelligence – who stands accused of various crimes including murder and fraud – since the latter’s controversial reinstatement in March (nose150).
Noseweek can now reveal that just two months after Ngcobo’s appointment, a still-deeper presidential spy unit was secretly established within the Presidential Protection Unit itself. Six crime intelligence officers were seconded to that unit in December. There they will report to Mxolisi Dladla – a man prepared, quite literally, to kill for Zuma (see more of that below).
At the same time that Ngcobo was promoted, the head of police Crime Intelligence in KwaZulu-Natal, Major-General Deena Moodley and one of his men, Brigadier Jules Ndlovu, were locked out their offices. (They were still due to have their cases heard by the Durban Labour Court when Noseweek went to press.)
Said one Crime Intelligence source: “It’s all about politics. The plan is to make sure that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is protected from corruption probes into Crime Intelligence. He wants Moodley out because Moodley won’t cover for him.
“Two days before City Press broke the story on Mthethwa’s looting of the secret fund to renovate his private home, the acting crime intelligence boss in KZN, Thuso Tshika, grabbed a number of cars illegally bought with this fund for Mthethwa’s friend Timmy Marimuthu, and hid them at the City Lodge, opposite provincial headquarters. This is the sort of policemen Mthethwa and Zuma want.”
(Reg Thomas, Marimuthu’s lawyer, said he had no comment on reports naming Marimuthu as a recipient of looted money from the CI secret fund. “At this point, our position is that we deny the allegations. We have not been given the evidence of this and so we cannot comment.”)
And while Tshika is alleged to have hidden cars bought with looted funds, an allegedly drunken, debt-ridden CI colonel whose task it is to guard South Africa’s secrets, is spending most days hiding his car from debt collectors. (See Debt and drink below.)
Several sources allege the new and secret Presidential Spy Unit reporting to Dladla is to be tasked exclusively with spying on Zuma’s political enemies in the run-up to the ANC conference at Mangaung.
In February 2010 Dladla was a very junior lieutenant-colonel and one of Jacob Zuma’s VIP bodyguards when he fired shots at an 80-year-old pensioner who dared not move out of the way of Zuma’s speeding blue-light convoy. Three separate very senior police sources all told Noseweek that, contrary to claims made at the time, Zuma was not actually travelling in the convoy when Dladla decided to shoot at the unarmed pensioner with his Uzi submachine gun.
At the time of the incident, Zuma had just been relieved of his duties as deputy president by President Thabo Mbeki, but was still entitled to police bodyguards.
The elderly pensioner, Dan Mathee, who by chance was a former commander of the Durban Murder and Robbery Unit, laid charges of attempted murder at the Durban Central Police Station, where he allegedly battled to get police to open a case. Mathee was quoted in the media complaining about how hard it was to get police to take him seriously.
Senior public prosecutor Mark Dyson eventually prosecuted Dladla, who was an easy suspect to arrest and should have been as easy to prosecute.
Dyson, who has since left the National Prosecuting Authority, told Noseweek that Dladla had filed a report at Durban Central Police Station in which he described how he’d fired a single warning shot in order to scare off a person whom he felt was an immediate threat to the life of Zuma.
Dyson believed Dladla was telling two blatant lies: first, Zuma’s life was not in danger – he was not even in the convoy; and second, Dladla did not fire a single warning shot – he fired at least three shots from his submachine gun. There were three separate bullet holes in the pensioner’s car, which were all in places remarkably close to the driver’s seat.
When the case eventually came to court, Durban magistrate Fariedha Mohamed acquitted Dladla of attempted murder in an extraordinary ruling in which she found Dladla’s target, Mathee, to have given evidence that was, as she put it: “seriously lacking”. (See Trigger Happy below.)
Dladla’s career was anything but damaged by the trial: having been promoted a number of times, he is now a major-general and the commander of the Presidential Protection Unit.
Gareth Newham of the Institute for Security Studies, describes Dladla’s rapid promotion as “very problematic”.
“Policemen are being very rapidly promoted due to their closeness to politicians, which feeds directly into corruption.” Dladla’s promotion – from lieutenant-colonel to major-general should normally have taken 20 years, he said.
Noseweek has been shown several documents confirming the existence of Dladla’s secret spook unit – including letters seconding the six Crime Intelligence operatives to the Presidential Protection Unit. Among the documents is an “information note” marked confidential, sent to the head of police human resources. It says, “A need has arisen within the Presidential Protection Service to employ the services of members from the Intelligence environment until further notice”. Among those seconded is Captain Wendy Bhengu, the girlfriend of Brigadier Thuso Tshika, the hard-line Zuma supporter now installed as head of Crime Intelligence in KwaZulu-Natal.
Tshika took the job previously held by career policeman Major-General Deena Moodley, referred to above.
Tshika has been described as “more of a politician than a policeman”. Contrary to police standing orders, he is a director of a private business group, Cetshwayo Enterprises, along with several senior ANC office-bearers, including the chairman of the ANC’s eThekwini branch, Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Dhlomo and his fellow directors did not respond to questions about the company.
Tshika’s girlfriend Bhengu features prominently in several probes into alleged corruption in the police Crime Intelligence Division.
A case of fraud was opened against Bhengu at Mayville Police Station, however, attempts by Noseweek to find out what happened to the investigation proved fruitless: both docket and investigating officer seemed to vanish as soon as enquiries were made.
Bhengu also escaped prosecution for fraud and driving illegally after being caught at the wheel of a police car without a driver’s license and wildly inflating her mileage expenses, by claiming she’d driven 400km in some lunch breaks.
Advocate Paul Hoffman SC, director of the SA Institute for Accountability, said: “I can see no need to deploy intelligence agents into the presidential bodyguard. The only possible reason for this would be that Zuma does not trust the existing intelligence agencies. It shows he is becoming alarmingly paranoid and abusing state structures to protect his own personal position.
“The constitution allows only the president to establish intelligence agencies, and then only in accordance with national legislation. Given that there is no national legislation allowing Zuma his own personal spy agency, attempts to set one up would be highly irregular.”
Zweli Mnisi, a spokesman for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, said: “There is only one crime intelligence unit within the organisational structure of the SAPS.”
He did not respond to specific queries about why Crime Intelligence officials were being seconded to Zuma’s presidential bodyguard.
The claims against Bhengu and other equally notable police officers (See Debt and drink below) are contained in a dossier detailing corruption and maladministration in the SAPS in KZN that, ironically, was sent to the Commander of Police Crime Intelligence, Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli in January last year – some months before he was himself suspended, accused of kidnapping and murdering a love rival.
Magistrate Fariedha Mohamed claimed in her judgment that retired Murder and Robbery Squad policeman Dan Mathee became evasive when asked certain questions about the incident in which he narrowly escaped being shot by a member of Zuma’s bodyguard. Whether Mathee was “evasive” or simply could not hear questions put to him is not clear. Mathee, 80-plus, is so hard-of-hearing he cannot use the telephone.
Mohamed acquitted Dladla without his having to give evidence or defend himself. She declared that she “had not gone into the merits of the matter” as she found Mathee’s testimony too unreliable to convict Dladla. But, at the same time, she said in her judgment that she did not find Dladla’s actions to be justifiable.
Criticising Mathee, Mohamed ruled: “He testified that if he had seen that it was a police vehicle [behind him] he would have got out of the way, but he did not, because there was no police insignia. This is indicative of a defiant and non-compliant attitude”.
Prosecutor Mark Dyson argued that, on Dladla’s version alone, Dladla should be convicted. Having admitted to discharging his weapon to scare off Mathee, Dladla was, Dyson argued, clearly the man who hit Mathee’s car – not with just one warning shot, but with a burst of three shots, all aimed directly at Mathee’s car, with obvious serious intent of hitting Mathee.
Dyson told Noseweek that he motivated as strongly as he could for the acquittal to be appealed: “I found the decision strange. I felt very strongly that the case should be appealed. However, as I was leaving the NPA, I was not there to follow up. I don’t know what happened to the recommendation. Clearly the appeal never happened.”
Debt and drink
The latest police scandal in KwaZulu-Natal emerges from a second secret official dossier that has recently been brought to Noseweek’s attention. To be distinguished from the immediately preceding scandal involving police head of crime intelligence Richard Mdluli, the latest one concerns the head of SAPS counter-intelligence in the province, Colonel Phillip Magadla.
In the dossier, Magadla is described as a threat to national security because of his alleged massive debt, a drinking problem and general dishonesty.
Magadla is said to owe hundreds of thousands of rand to First National Bank and Standard Bank. This, while his job includes having to guard against infiltration of the police by criminal elements. Almost by definition, a cop with a serious debt problem is considered vulnerable to bribery. The same applies to one with a drinking problem.
Emphasising the point, it is alleged in the dossier that Magadla spent much of his time hiding his Mercedes Benz car from repossession men. Noseweek has independent confirmation of Magadla’s extensive debts – as well as the fact that his 2007 arrest for drunk driving in Pietermaritzburg has – for reasons yet to be explained – never made it to court. In addition, Magadla has repeatedly failed his firearms competency test – but has nevertheless been allowed to keep the firearm he is not competent to use because his job description requires him to have a firearm.
Noseweek has not been able to find out more about Magadla’s Mercedes; however, several Crime Intelligence employees claim he is too scared to drive it for fear of having it repossessed – and too broke to fill up the tank.
Instead, it’s alleged that he constantly demands that his underlings chauffeur him around in their police cars – while his Merc is parked in a hotel parking lot close to police headquarters – with keys left in the ignition. The author of the dossier surmises that Magadla is hoping the car will be stolen and that insurance will then settle his outstanding debt on the vehicle.
There has been no official response to the dossier. No surprise, since it was handed to the equally venal head of Police Crime Intelligence, Richard Mdluli, in January last year.
President Jacob Zuma, flanked by loyal bodyguards at the funeral in November of one of their members who died of malaria.
Zuma addressed mourners and credited the men with having thwarted a plot ‘by their superiors’ to assassinate him when, as deputy president and facing difficult times, trusted aides turned against him, The Witness newspaper reported at the time.
Zuma complimented ‘some in his team’ of having displayed a ‘deep knowledge of politics’ by refusing to give information about his movements ‘when their superiors wanted it’. As a result the men had been ostracised by their superiors yet had not budged.
He went on to name his ace team of protectors, known as the Echo Group, with Major-General Mxolisi Dladla at the top of the list.
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