Today, the Head of the South African Police Service`s Divisional Head of Crime Intelligence, Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli was granted bail. While the magistrate decided that he would not interfere with the investigations, Mdluli’s own submissions to the court during his bail hearing demonstrates that he is not suitable for that position and it is in the interest of South Africans that he is removed. While the trial will determine whether he is guilty of murder and defeating the ends of justice, this saga brings to the fore once again the disturbing reality that the line between the state and the ruling party has become horribly blurred.
When tapes purportedly made by SAPS Crime Intelligence and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and of conversations between the prosecutors involved in the investigation of corruption allegations against President Zuma in 2009 were illegally made available to Zuma’s defence team it raised several questions:
- Why were state intelligence agencies monitoring prosecutors in this case?
- Who authorised the eavesdropping?
- Are the intelligence agencies being used for political purposes and if so who else is the state monitoring?
- When the police and intelligence operatives break the law at the highest level, is anyone really safe?
The report by the Inspector General of Intelligence to the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence about the leaking of the tapes has never been made public. Moreover, no criminal case was brought against the individuals who made and leaked the tapes illegally. Although there is clear indication that the important line between the state security apparatus and the ruling party has been irrevocably breached, there is no evidence that anyone is being held accountable. This can only encourage those in the state security apparatus to misuse their positions in order to gain political favour.
It is no surprise then that in an attempt to defend himself at his bail hearing, Mdluli presented evidence where he unashamedly declares his political loyalty to the president and the ruling party. He has also said that one of his co-accused, Colonel Nkosana Ximba, played “an important role” in the Polokwane conference and during the time that President Zuma was facing corruption charges from the NPA. It is no small irony that he admits to partaking in a political conspiracy in an effort to garner the President`s support to protect him from what he calls a political conspiracy. Mdluli obviously tried to indicate that the President owes him a debt and that calling in the debt should be sufficient to save him from facing murder charges. It is also interesting that he thought that Zuma would quash the matter rather than simply knowing that being innocent would be enough to see of allegations.
Based on the “Zuma tapes” and the evidence Mdluli handed to the court, it is clear that the SAPS Crime Intelligence Division is deeply compromised. Senior and powerful members have been engaging in internal ruling party struggles that will detract from their ability to fully focus the Divisions attention and resources on tackling crime. Unfortunately, lessons were not learnt from the mistakes of the past. The previous head of the SAPS National Crime Intelligence Division, Mulangi Mphego, also faced criminal charges for interfering the NPA investigation into corruption committed by previous police chief, Jacke Selebi. These charges were withdrawn and have not yet been reinstated, which itself is a worrying sign that people close to the ruling party are considered above the law.
Rather than ensuring that the new head of the division was a person of integrity and professionalism, an irregular procedure was followed to appoint Mdluli as a replacement for Mphego. Divisional Commissioners in the SAPS are supposed to be appointed according to a clear set of procedures. The post must be advertised openly and candidates shortlisted and interviewed by a panel consisting of Deputy National Commissioners and other appropriately qualified officers. The National Commissioner then appoints the Divisional Commissioner based on the recommendations of the panel. In this instance however, a hastily convened group of two Ministers and two Deputy Ministers, instructed the then Acting National Commissioner, Tim Williams, to appoint Mdluli. This was in spite of the fact these none of these politicians have expertise or knowledge of crime intelligence. It therefore begs the question as to why they intervened and for what purpose did they bulldoze the appointment of Mdluli. Ironically, Mphego stated that this “… process was evidently not legal”, and that he had formally complained about it.
The only course of action available to rectify this dangerous and untenable situation is for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the extent to which the SAPS Crime Intelligence Division is staffed with appropriately qualified people and has misused its powers and resources for purposes outside of its legal mandate. Until such an inquiry occurs it is highly unlikely that the networks and patterns of activity that currently undermine SAPS Crime Intelligence will cease to exist.
Head of the Crime and Justice Programme
at the Instititute for Security Studies