Powell was 'tricked' out of indemnity

Controversial KwaZulu-Natal Inkatha Freedom Party leader and MPL Phillip Powell was tricked into revealing the large cache of arms which were unearthed in northern KwaZulu-Natal this week.

The Mail & Guardian has been reliably informed that the offer of indemnity made to Powell is not necessarily binding on National Director of Public Prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka. Ngcuka is said to have “mandated” KwaZulu-Natal’s Deputy Director of Prosecutions, Gert Nel, to enter into the indemnity agreement with Powell.

Powell revealed the arms on condition that he was granted indemnity from prosecution by Ngcuka’s office. Nel placed a condition that Powell reveal all the consignments of weapons at his disposal. The naming of all persons involved in the gun-running was also a condition for indemnity. But Powell is likely to face a long prison term if he fails to reveal more weapons and the people he was involved with in the alleged gun-running.

Ngcuka said he was not satisfied with the amount of weapons revealed by Powell, and that Powell could not have acted alone. “Powell will most likely be charged with conspiracy to commit treason if he fails to bring more arms. Bulelani [Ngcuka] will not rest until Powell reveals the culprits he was working with,” the source said.

The unearthing of the weapons followed a police raid on KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Safety and Security Nyanga Ngubane’s home a few weeks ago. An illegal shotgun was found in Ngubane’s home. Sources say Ngubane will be arrested and charged “very soon”. Ngubane claimed the weapon belonged to a security company guarding his home, but new evidence has emerged that it belonged to the police.

The M&G has learned that Powell was about to be arrested and charged with gun-running shortly before he volunteered the information about the arms cache. Investigating officers from Ngcuka’s office put Powell under 24-hour surveillance after getting information that he and others were planning to “unleash a spate of political violence” in KwaZulu-Natal.

Sources say Powell panicked as a result of the heavy police presence around him. He was also worried that the IFP would not protect him after the party failed to come to a political settlement with authorities following the raid on Ngubane’s home.

A source close to Powell says he was also unhappy with his position on the IFP’s provincial election list. With latest opinion polls predicting an ANC win in KwaZulu-Natal, the chances that Powell, at number 22, will return to the provincial legislature look slim.

Ngcuka’s representative, Sipho Ngwema, said the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions does not have the power to grant indemnity to anyone, adding that is the domain of the courts.

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