Simelane's 'plot' clampdown
Senior officials in the Asset Forfeiture Unit believe prosecutions boss Menzi Simelane is using claims of an assassination plot against him to justify action against the unit.
The Mail & Guardian has confirmed that charges are being investigated against the unit’s head in KwaZulu-Natal, Knorx Molelle, and security and risk specialist Terrence Joubert. They relate to the issuing of two guns and ammunition for the unit’s trip to Kimberley in the run-up to the John Block-Gaston Savoi court hearing in the city’s magistrate’s court in October last year.
A National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) source told the M&G that Simelane had attempted to launch an investigation into “conspiracy to murder charges” against unit boss Willie Hofmeyr and Molelle after claiming that there was a plot to murder him.
Another senior source in the unit said there were rumours that Simelane suspected an assassination plot against him—linked to the issuing of the weapons to the unit. The M&G could not verify this. Simelane’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Mhaga, said he was unaware of “such investigations”.
Simelane suspended Molelle last week, a month after stripping him of his powers. The M&G has established that two of the charges now being investigated against him relate to the Kimberley trip and whether permission was obtained for the weapons to be issued.
However, the newspaper was reliably informed that Hofmeyr obtained the relevant permission after Molelle had complained of threatening calls and suspicions that he was being followed.
Mhaga said that Molelle had not yet been charged, adding: “He is suspended while the investigation into his possible misconduct is undertaken and a decision is made on what, if any, steps are required.
“Mr Molelle has received a formal notice that informs him of the charges that are currently being investigated against him. It is inappropriate for the media to expect the NPA to conduct its internal disciplinary processes in the public space, and it goes against the organisation’s policy.”
Molelle, a trained advocate, approached the Labour Court this week for an urgent interdict to get back his job, but the matter had not been concluded at the time of going to press.
Moves against Molelle and Hofmeyr
Unit sources fear that the moves against Molelle—and, indirectly, Hofmeyr—are linked to what they see as Simelane’s drive to disband the unit and bring under his direct control the fraud and corruption case involving Uruguayan businessman Savoi and his company, Intaka, as well as several top ANC politicians, including Northern Cape party chairman Block. Among the unit’s successes in this case are orders it obtained to freeze assets worth R180-million that belong to Savoi.
The murder plot speculation involves a Glock pistol, a Dashprod rifle and 130 rounds of ammunition.
Mhaga would neither confirm nor deny that suspicions of a murder plot were at issue in the Molelle investigation. Pressed about who might be interested in killing Simelane, he said: “Perhaps this is a question that should be answered by the journalists of the M&G or anyone else who is pandering such information and allegations.”
Asked why Simelane was worried about the fact that the unit’s members felt they needed guns to secure them in Kimberley, Mhaga declined to comment. “A response to this question is not appropriate at this point—in light of the internal disciplinary procedures that have been instituted.”
Simelane was present at the hearing in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court in October, donning a prosecutor’s robe when the state opposed bail for Block and Savoi.
Before the unit’s trip to Kimberley, Joubert had carried out a threat assessment and concluded that Molelle and his team were in danger, the M&G has learned.
Joubert has now been suspended and faces disciplinary hearings on several charges, including issuing the guns “without authority”.
“Terence Joubert has been suspended on charges relating to dishonesty, and these are all internal matters that we can’t discuss in the media,” said Mhaga.
It is understood that Joubert held onto the guns until April, when they were returned to the unit’s store. This was allegedly authorised by the witness protection unit, which looks after weapons.
But a senior manager of the NPA’s integrity management unit, Prince Moketedi, opened a case with the police in Durban in July, claiming that the guns issued for the Kimberley hearing had been stolen. Joubert was named as a suspect in this case, although the weapons had already been returned.
“The Hawks have taken over the case now and it is no longer one of theft,” said Moketedi this week. “I think they are looking into firearms control now.”
A Hawks investigator flew to KwaZulu-Natal last week to question Joubert about whether he had ever run a business with Molelle. Both men denied having been in business together, the M&G was informed.
An area of contention among legal figures prosecuting the Intaka case is Simelane’s decision not to charge or clear the name of KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize, while charging provincial legislature speaker Peggy Nkonyeni.
Mkhize has consistently denied being implicated in the tenders-for-kickbacks scandal involving Intaka.
Some NPA sources still believe Simelane is trying to disband the unit, as stated in the five-year plan he presented to Parliament last year but later dismissed as an “administrative error”.
But Mhaga dismissed this. “The matter has been addressed sufficiently within the NPA and in the media subsequently, with the minister of justice further confirming that there is no plan to close down the Asset Forfeiture Unit.”