(Graphic: Marushka Stipinovich)
Too many echoes of crime cover-ups linger in key law enforcement bodies today.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Cop bosses faced intense scrutiny this week over whether they would place the law above politics and zip into Nkandla to detain former president Jacob Zuma – he ended up handing himself over. But intentions underlying policing are still questionable, with fresh claims of state crime cover-ups, emanating from cops, implying South Africa could make a U-turn towards State Capture terrain if these crimes are not stopped in their tracks.
South Africa’s police service is at the core of resurging State Capture fears as it implodes with even more claims of internal criminality at a critical time.
Senior officers have told courts they are being targeted for exposing state crimes – exactly what happened during the captured years.
This unfolded as Zuma tried to stave off imprisonment – an attempt that ended on 7 July, when he was detained. He is now in jail for contempt of court.
On Friday, 9 July, a Gauteng court rejected ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s attempt to overturn his suspension. This and Zuma’s jailing sparked protests in support of them in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday. An inciting video of a gun being fired at a poster of President Cyril Ramaphosa was also uploaded to, then deleted from, Zuma’s daughter’s Twitter account on Friday.
The police are under pressure to react.
At the same time, Zuma’s previous sidestepping of structures meant to hold him to account raises questions about political allegiances in law enforcement. National Correctional Services Commissioner Arthur Fraser, who previously headed the State Security Agency, is at the heart of allegations that intelligence structures under Zuma were warped to suit the ANC faction aligned to him.
This week Police Minister Bheki Cele, who has not always seen eye to eye with Zuma-appointed National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole, told News24 he was “not prepared to be charged with contempt of court” for failing to arrest Zuma.
Zuma’s subsequent detention marks a pivotal moment for the governing party.
Aside from overt pro-Zuma protests, there are concerns from officials linked to the security sector that governing figures aligned to Zuma may thwart attempts to uphold the law. For instance, the step-aside rule, which compels ANC members and representatives to stand down or face suspension if criminally charged, could be used to sideline people.
The officials also worry that cops with dubious political intent could influence the work of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and its anti-corruption unit, the Investigating Directorate.
The ANC, following its National Executive Committee meeting this week, issued a statement that seemed to touch on these concerns. It reaffirmed “that all our democratic institutions, including the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, shall always be defended from political attacks”. The party also said it would “instruct those from our ranks who are trying to undermine this leadership, to desist from trying to divide the ANC”.
But the South African Police Service (SAPS) is undeniably divided. Senior police officers insist there are acute attempts to get rid of them because of investigations that lead back to the state.
Such accusations should not be attributed to sheer factionalism or tit-for-tat squabbles. They could be symptoms of continued or renewed State Capture.
Former Hawks head Anwa Dramat, who was subjected to bogus criminal charges, was, as he put it, “pushed out” because of high-level politically linked investigations.
This week national police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said Sitole, since taking office in November 2017, had implemented a turnaround strategy that included “a clean-up of the organisation … criminality, corruption, dereliction of duty, ill-discipline, etc, will no longer be tolerated”, Naidoo said.
He said there were investigations into “alleged acts of corruption related to procurement”.
- The ANC’s step-aside rule, which says criminally charged members and representatives must stand down or face suspension, could be used on members who are arrested based on concocted politically driven charges.
- Side-lining those investigating and uncovering crimes within the state – some cops have already alleged that this is happening.
- Fresh smear-style campaigns. Leaked phone recordings recently surfaced that raised questions about Police Minister Bheki Cele. On the day of Jacob Zuma’s arrest this week, Cele was also named in a news article as being a subject of a R1-billion fraud investigation. DM168 established this was a complaint to police by the head of an obscure organisation who apparently wants President Cyril Ramaphosa to step down, and who in a YouTube video said he approached cops about the news articles on leaked recordings involving Cele.
- Police officers with politically motivated agendas could feed particular dockets to the National Prosecuting Authority and its Investigating Directorate and influence how, and which, cases are investigated. Sources: Police officer affidavits and Daily News articles.
Last week DM168 reported that the SA Revenue Service (SARS) and the NPA, under new leaders appointed by Ramaphosa, were slowly recovering from State Capture. Yet corruption claims dominate the police, despite Sitole’s apparent strategy. Some officers point to him as part of the problem.
In the trio of law enforcement agencies meant to bolster each other – SARS, the NPA and the SAPS – the SAPS now seems the weakest link. Claims and counterclaims among police figures escalated while eyes were on Zuma. He and his allies are accused of derailing investigations that led back to them.
Leaked phone recordings that surfaced in the Daily News on 1 and 2 July are reminiscent of those days, with Cele apparently talking to Durban businessman and ex-cop Timmy Marimuthu. The State Capture Commission was told Marimuthu was a convicted drug dealer who served no time in custody, was associated with Cele, and at some point was “signed on as a contact person at Crime Intelligence”, a body beset by claims of cops being corrupt.
In the two recordings – which may or may not be part of the same conversation, and one of which appears to be from 2019 – Marimuthu references, among various topics, money he heard “was going to go to Zuma” and other money someone, apparently a police officer, said was going to the “fight” for Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Ramaphosa’s rival in the 2017 race to the presidency of the ANC.
The surfacing of the recordings in the media is curious: they may have been intentionally leaked now to, for example, make Cele look bad.
Marimuthu has a chequered history. His name cropped up when a recorded call, which a government statement said was “facilitated by” Marimuthu, led to the July 2013 resignation of SARS commissioner Oupa Magashula.
Magashula’s departure preceded Tom Moyane being appointed SARS commissioner. Moyane was accused of actively working to incapacitate SARS, but denied involvement in State Capture.
Referring to the leaked recordings involving Cele, Marimuthu told Daily News that providing information to Cele “is to better this country so that it can be brought under control when it comes to lawlessness”.
Cele’s spokesperson did not provide comment to DM168 by the time of publication.
People with ties to police and intelligence view the new leak of calls involving Marimuthu as a sign the dirty tricks of the State Capture era may be resurging.
Recently, several senior police officers have found themselves facing off against police bosses, including Sitole.
This week Jeremy Vearey, who headed the Western Cape’s detectives until Sitole controversially fired him at the end of May over Facebook posts, approached the Western Cape High Court to try to force cop bosses to urgently reinstate a protection detail that had been withdrawn.
“My dismissal is … a method to achieve the ulterior motives of senior police management,” Vearey said in an affidavit. He said withdrawing his protection could be meant “to discourage me from testifying in the high-profile criminal matters … as a result of my investigations and/or investigations that I mandated”.
Vearey said police management was unfairly targeting him and Peter Jacobs, who until recently was national Crime Intelligence head, and Andre Lincoln, who headed the Western Cape’s Anti-Gang Unit. All three worked on investigations involving allegations of police officers getting firearms to gangsters in the province.
“There is an orchestrated stratagem to get rid of Jacobs, Lincoln and l,” Vearey said in his affidavit. “We exposed corruption in the police and we diligently committed ourselves to the eradication of gang activities.”
Jacobs, while still national Crime Intelligence head, and a few colleagues were suspended in December 2020 over what he described as a “meritless allegation” by the Inspector-General of Intelligence related to possible personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement irregularities involving the secret service account, reportedly totalling nearly R1-million.
Jacobs said in an affidavit Sitole had decided to charge him and his colleagues in February.
“When the charges were put to us, it became clear that … ulterior motives, through these bogus charges, were being pursued.”
Jacobs said he was targeted after he made protected disclosures about corruption in the police service, included allegations of a rogue unit with links to Crime Intelligence operating in the Western Cape. Assassinated Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, who had been investigating cops allegedly creating fraudulent firearm licences for criminals, made the “rogue” claim.
“I also instituted internal investigations about widescale corruption within Crime Intelligence, amounting to millions of rands, involving current and former senior officers within Crime Intelligence and the SAPS,” Jacobs said in his affidavit.
Jacobs was suddenly moved in March from national Crime Intelligence to the police inspectorate, which some saw as a sidelining.
The State Capture Commission has heard extensive high-level allegations of how South Africa’s law enforcement and intelligence structures were warped during the Zuma presidency.
In an affidavit to the commission in January, former Cabinet minister Sydney Mufamadi said: “There has been a serious politicisation and factionalisation of the intelligence community over the past decade or more, based on factions in the ruling party.”
Former Independent Police Investigative Directorate boss Robert McBride, in documents submitted to the commission in April 2019, referred to cop criminality.
He said the directorate’s “investigations reveal a concerted effort by criminal syndicates to infiltrate, compromise and weaken the SAPS. Senior police management are complicit in some of the nefarious activities or either turn a blind eye to them.”
South Africa’s police corruption crisis is exceptionally deep and goes back decades.
Jackie Selebi was appointed national police commissioner in February 2000 – in 2010 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for taking bribes from drug dealer Glenn Agliotti.
Meanwhile, shortly before the Selebi controversy wrapped up, Zuma was inaugurated president in May 2009 and two months later Richard Mdluli was appointed head of Crime Intelligence.
Mdluli is now a convict and faces charges relating to allegations of secret service account looting.
There are still strands and figures linking those years to now.
Selebi died in February 2015. In an article published in the Sunday Independent, a former acting head of Crime Intelligence, Mulangi Mphego, seemed to show support for the convicted former police chief.
“We knew the Scorpions coerced Agliotti to falsify evidence against Jackie and suppressed evidence,” Mphego wrote.
The Scorpions, formed by then president Thabo Mbeki in 1999, investigated figures including Zuma, but were disbanded around the time Zuma became president.
Mphego resurfaced recently.
In August 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported he was appointed special adviser to Deputy President David Mabuza, who according to Zuma’s son Duduzane was once close to the Zuma family.
Last week it emerged Mabuza was headed to Russia for medical treatment.
He was previously, like Zuma, allegedly poisoned – and was then treated in Russia. DM168
- Fired Western Cape detective head Jeremy Vearey believes he, former national Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs and colleague Andre Lincoln, who headed the province’s Anti-Gang Unit, are targets of a campaign to get them out of the police service because they exposed cop corruption. All three (along with assassinated Western Cape officer Charl Kinnear) investigated how police officers were allegedly getting firearms to gangsters.
- Former national Crime Intelligence boss Peter Jacobs, who was controversially moved to head the police inspectorate, believes “bogus” allegations were levelled against him after he disclosed details of corruption among cops and launched investigations into “widescale corruption within Crime Intelligence, amounting to millions of rands”.
- Police Minister Bheki Cele previously called for an inquiry into National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole’s fitness to hold office because of the classification of documents linked to Crime Intelligence’s allegedly unlawful procurement of a surveillance device (a “grabber”) at an inflated price of R45-million ahead of the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec in 2017. Sources: Court documents relating to different cases. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.