South Africa

Crime Intelligence Top Job: Candidates on shortlist ‘wholly unsuitable’ warns Paul O’Sullivan, citing ‘criminal acts’

Now that former head of Crime Intelligence, Richard Mdluli, has departed, leaving an R8-million hole in the fiscus after lingering “at home” on suspension for seven years, the time has come to clean up one of the filthiest and chaotic divisions of SAPS. Mdluli’s resignation clears the way for the appointment of a new permanent head to this key position, but already there are rumblings that potential shortlisted candidates are tainted. By MARIANNE THAMM.

Earlier this week, Forensic Investigator Paul O’Sullivan took it upon himself to write to National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sithole, copying in a number of high-profile interested parties including President Cyril Ramaphosa, about the impending appointment of a new Divisional Commissioner of Crime Intelligence.

O’Sullivan alerted General Sithole to the fact that it had “come to my attention” that two (it later turned out there were three) candidates had been shortlisted for the position of Divisional Commissioner of Crime Intelligence.

I have no doubt that the persons shortlisted are wholly unsuitable for the position they have applied for, due their past involvement in criminal acts. It leaves me wondering what calibre of background checks were carried out,” wrote O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan said that the purpose of his email was to request an intervention by Parliament or IPID to prevent “the imminent appointment, which will be a lot harder to undo, once the appointment has been made”. He added that Forensics for Justice (an NPO established by O’Sullivan) reserved the right to launch an application “with others if need be, to review and set aside the decision to appoint, if an unsuitable appointment is made”.

Asked by Daily Maverick what General Sithole’s response was to the charges in O’Sullivan’s email, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, SAPS National Spokesperson, replied:

We have taken note of the report by Mr O’Sullivan. We will investigate the allegations and engage with Mr O’Sullivan as part of the process of the investigation.”

Crime Intelligence, under Mdluli’s watch, was turned into a private criminal syndicate with hundreds of millions looted from a secret police slush fund as the division was run as a personal, unaccountable fiefdom mostly in service to a faction of the ANC.

One of the most audacious examples of the abuse of Criminal Intelligence funds was the revelation, after the arrest of CI officer Captain Morris “KGB” Tshabalala in January 2018, that he had headed an intelligence operation at the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung and had been in charge of a R50-million budget (in cash) that had not been accounted for. Tshabalala was a convicted armed robber who escaped from prison and ended up working for CI again without being vetted.

In September last year IPID asked that Major-General Obed Nemutanzhela, head of the CI slush fund be suspended while he faced an investigation involving the alleged misappropriation of half-a-million rand.

In January 2018, former head of crime intelligence in the Free State, Major-General Agnes Makhele, appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court accused of running a counter-investigation through Crime Intelligence, in an attempt to protect former acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane from a corruption case against him.

Meanwhile police top brass revealed to Parliament’s police portfolio committee that 22 of the CI officers in charge of counterintelligence, security intelligence and national security did not have valid security clearance certificates.

These included the head of the secret service account, head of covert intelligence collection; the KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West and Northern Cape provincial heads; section heads in charge of national security, narcotics, finance, covert collection; Interpol and the section head in charge of internal audit, evaluation and monitoring.

It is unsurprising then that the capacity of Crime Intelligence, whose job it is to protect South African citizens from serious threats, has been severely compromised.

A recent example is how warnings were ignored with regard to the Ngcobo Mancoba Angel Ministries Church, where a bloody shootout with police ended in the deaths of seven suspects after an earlier raid on a police station at Ngcobo during which five SAPS members and an off-duty soldier were shot dead.

The raid on the Ngobo police station on 21 February was an audacious one, suggesting that the gunmen knew they would not meet resistance. It emerged later that authorities had been aware of activities at the church a year prior to the deadly showdown with police.

Then there is the abduction and suspected murder in February of Kenilworth botanists Rod and Rachel Saunders in KwaZulu-Natal by two suspects linked to ISIS. Three accused, Sayfydeen Aslam Del Vecchio, Fatima Patel and Themba Xulu appeared in the Mtunzini magistrate’s court on charges of kidnapping, robbery, as well as the possible contravention of the Protection of Constitutional Democracy against Terrorist and Related Activities Act.

In February, the arrest of Johannesburg businessman and Lebanese citizen, Usama Darwich Hamade (aka Prince Sam), his brother Issam Hamade (aka Tony) exposed South Africa as a central location in a case involving the export of digital compasses used in drones to Hezbollah (which the US classifies as a “terrorist organisation”). The accused had lied when ordering the components saying they were to be used for an anti-poaching operation.

New Minister of Police Bheki Cele has vowed to clean up CI.

In an interview with Paddy Harper, Cele said that “the intelligence community as a whole, and not just CI, needs to be brought back into line and to do the job it is meant to be doing. There are strong allegations that it has been used to fight political battles. CI has been in the news with some very ugly stories. We will work on CI. Other people will have to work on the other agencies.”

Cele said that the appointment of a new head of the CI division was urgent.

We will start from the head to make sure that things are fixed, that personnel and resources are going where they are supposed to go and not to places where they are used to fight people’s battles,” Cele told Harper.

The rot in Criminal Intelligence runs deep and wide. An open and transparent process of vetting the new incumbent before s/he is appointed would be a good start. The real job of rooting out the well-entrenched criminals in the ranks of the division, however, will take some time but IPID is in the process of smoking them out.

O’Sullivan’s letter to Sithole has served to make public the placement of a suitable candidate for this most vital position which, under Jacob Zuma’s watch, has been perverted to serve political ends while ignoring the safety and security of the country’s crime-weary citizens. DM

Photo: Former head of Crime Intelligence, Richard Mdluli (Sapa)

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