The Crime Intelligence Service has been deployed at the ANC's conference, leaving the country wide open.
ANC fears of factional violence at its national conference in Mangaung has allegedly prompted an unprecedented security and intelligence operation, including the deployment of an entire unit from the Crime Intelligence Service (CIS). Its normal and primary duty is to gather intelligence on crime syndicates and organised crime.
- Send us your questions and watch our video interview with the M&G politics team ahead of Mangaung.
One intelligence source involved in the security operation told the Mail & Guardian: "There is more security than at any other conference because of the current political situation. The threats are worse than ever despite security being tight – but threats and violence are highly expected."
The M&G understands that Colonel Nkosana "Killer" Ximba, an alleged ally of former CIS boss Richard Mdluli, is managing the operation and "has been in and out of Bloemfontein for the past two months".
The M&G was also told that the entire CIS profiling and analysis office was at the conference, including its acting head, Major General Chris Ngcobo, and the acting head of collections, Brigadier KB "Bhoyi" Ngcobo.
A source said: "They all returned to Bloemfontein again last Friday, but Killer [Ximba] is the main go-to guy. He is 'the getting-it-done guy'."
All CIS resources have been reserved for Mangaung, said two intelligence sources. They complained that this has given organised crime syndicates an early Christmas present because the conference has taken precedence over all other intelligence-driven operations.
Last week City Press reported that "a task team of 40 hand-picked crime intelligence agents" had been deployed to Mangaung.
An intelligence source said there was uncertainty regarding possible opposition to Jacob Zuma's re-election and the threat of violence. The source claimed that certain ANC factions "want to take Zuma out if he is elected" and this threat would need to be "neutralised".
However, another source offered a more sinister interpretation, saying the crime intelligence deployment was "to ensure at all costs that Zuma wins". The source said it was most unusual for the CIS to deploy so many officers for one event, especially because there had been "no threat against any VIP".
"It is not their job to be there [in Mangaung]. There must be a threat report issued to say what threat there is against what VIP," the source said. "So they have no other purpose to be there. They are there to be undercover and to profile and analyse people to know who the threats are and to intimidate them."
The view was supported by a comment made to the M&G some weeks ago by another CIS source, who is abreast of internal strategies.
"Nothing else is of importance. Every resource, every effort has been channelled into getting the president successfully re-elected for another term," the source said.
The police's Brigadier Phuti Setati would not comment on why so many intelligence operatives have been deployed or the presence of certain CIS officers.
"Unfortunately, the SAPS cannot report or comment on its strategic operations, because this might compromise or jeopardise the object of its cause – that is, the fight against crime," Setati said.
But another insider, who also asked not to be named, argued there was just cause for the intelligence operation in Mangaung, saying it was "vital for the police to have accurate and immediate intelligence. This is our leadership and our future leadership all in one place; you have got to do it.
"Polokwane is still fresh in every-body's minds and this time there is no clear consensus [about which leaders should be elected]."
Arguing that the allocation of resources to Mangaung was justified, the source expressed concern that there might be insufficient resources to fend off threats to law and order not related to Mangaung. "All crime intelligence's resources are in Bloemfontein. The whole city will be on lockdown and thousands of police will be drawn in for it."
The source noted that very little intelligence work on issues unrelated to Mangaung had been carried out in the past few months.
There had been "few big busts" in connection with cash-in-transit heists and copper-theft and drug syndicates, because they had received little attention from CIS.
The M&G has been told that informants have not been paid for information relevant to these operations.
It is understood that Ximba has gained considerable authority in the CIS under the acting leadership of Chris Ngcobo and KB Ngcobo, a former Zuma bodyguard, in the lead-up to Mangaung.
A recent inquest confirmed an earlier National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decision to drop charges against Ximba and Mdluli after finding that there were insufficient grounds to prosecute them for the 1999 death of a Vosloorus man.
Meanwhile, two senior crime intelligence officers were charged with fraud, theft and corruption this week in relation to the Hawks's ongoing investigation into the abuse of crime intelligence's secret service account.
'Used exclusively by Lazarus'
Major General Solly Lazarus, who was formerly in charge of the account, and Colonel Heine Barnard handed themselves over to the police on Tuesday and appeared in the magistrate's court in Pretoria. They were released on R10 000 bail and will appear in court again in February. The two intelligence officers are accused of personally benefiting from the secret service account to the tune of R1.14-million. They allegedly brokered a deal involving the purchase of official cars through a Centurion dealership nominated by a police front company, Universal Technical Enterprises.
Lazarus allegedly signed off on Atlantis Motors as CIS's approved car dealership, where the unit has purchased the majority of its cars for Gauteng.
City Press reported last week that Lazarus had been accused of striking a deal with Atlantis Motors boss Jan Venter, who created an account into which money from a "legal transaction to buy crime intelligence vehicles" was transferred.
This money was then allegedly "used exclusively by Lazarus".
Lazarus and Barnard are accused of using the account to buy and sell cars and of buying cars for their family. An intelligence source previously told the M&G that CIS had a warehouse in Centurion where the fleet was based: "The new cars are stacked up there and their [senior intelligence officials] buddies walk through and choose whatever car they want."
Lazarus was suspended in December last year in the wake of the withdrawal of fraud and corruption charges against his former boss, as well as Barnard, who was charged alongside Mdluli, before the NPA withdrew the case against them. Lazarus was one of several senior crime intelligence officers who were suspended or redeployed following the Hawks investigation.
* Got a tip-off for us about this story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.