Hawks dig in over the 'highly irregular' decision to drop charges against ex-crime intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli, writes Glynnis Underhill.
In a show of defiance, the police’s Hawks unit has returned the letter it received from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) informing it that the now sidelined crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli would not be prosecuted.
The acting national director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, had not signed it and on that basis the Hawks returned the letter to her, the Mail & Guardian was told.
It was signed by Jackie Lipinka, an NPA office manager.
A police source said the Hawks believed that Jiba was reluctant to throw herself into the political whirlpool surrounding Mdluli. The NPA withdrew the murder and fraud charges against him.
The Hawks are now fighting that decision, which it regards as highly irregular.
But the prosecuting authority’s spokesperson, Mthunzi Mhaga, said Jiba had “no reason to sign the letter”.
“The matter was being handled by the specialised commercial crime unit and the Hawks had addressed it to the head of that unit, who responded accordingly,” he said.
The head of the unit is Lawrence Mrwebi, who is a former KwaZulu-Natal head of the disbanded Scorpions unit.
During former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi’s corruption trial, Mrwebi testified on his behalf, alleging he was the victim of a plot by the Scorpions to arrest police officers to prevent the disbandment of the unit. Selebi was found guilty of corruption in 2010.
Jiba was also involved in allegations that she had tried to protect Selebi. She was suspended four years ago by the NPA because of her alleged involvement in a campaign waged against former Scorpions boss Gerrie Nel, which was alleged to have been aimed at thwarting the arrest of Selebi. Her disciplinary process was subsequently abandoned.
It was reported by the M&G that Mdluli allegedly filed an affidavit supporting Jiba in which he claimed he had access to telephone calls that revealed that Nel was being protected by the NPA.
Nel earned Jiba’s enmity by prosecuting her husband, Booker Nhantsi, for stealing a client’s money from his firm’s trust account.
In a controversial move, President Jacob Zuma expunged Nhantsi’s criminal record in September 2010.
Caught in this web is Glynnis Breytenbach, who heads the regional specialised commercial crime unit in Pretoria. A senior prosecutor, her life has been threatened – she has been shot at twice while driving and attempts were made to force her car off the road. Breytenbach was suspended after she sent a memorandum to Jiba giving reasons why the fraud charges against Mdluli should not have been dropped.
Although Breytenbach is expected to face a disciplinary hearing, she has still not received a copy of the charges against her.
“They haven’t had time to manufacture the charges,” said a source close to events surrounding her.
The NPA has 60 days from the date of her suspension, April 30, to hold a disciplinary hearing.
A source said it was suspected the NPA would delay the hearing for “as long as possible” to keep her out of the office.
She returned home this week from a planned holiday abroad to see the headlines about the urgent application brought by the Freedom Under Law organisation to prevent Mdluli from working as a police officer, pending a judicial review of the decisions relating to his reinstatement as crime intelligence boss.
According to a source close to Breytenbach, she has welcomed the news. She is also still in the dark about when she will return to work.
Although the NPA has denied that Breytenbach’s suspension is related to her attempts to prosecute Mdluli for fraud, the source close to her believes it was directly related to the memo she sent to Jiba.
Mdluli was previously accused by police of allegedly plundering the crime intelligence division’s secret service account to buy cars and houses, pay for holidays and to employ, illegally, his family members as covert agents. He was also charged with involvement in the 1999 murder of Oupa Ramogibe, who was married to his former girlfriend.
Mdluli claimed in an exclusive interview with the M&G last week that he was innocent of both fraud and murder charges, alleging it was a “racist plot” against him.
Apart from the allegations involving Mdluli and the secret services fund, the M&G reported two weeks ago that the Hawks had allegedly uncovered a second slush fund – a concealed police bank account – that police claimed further backed Breytenbach’s case for reopening the fraud case against Mdluli.