Hawks changes story on 'spy tapes' raid

NPA chief Mxolisi Nxasana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

NPA chief Mxolisi Nxasana. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko has gone back on his earlier statement that several houses were raided on Friday, and insisted that the raid was at a single house and had to do with corruption charges “relating to money” instead of the spy tapes as the Mail & Guardian reported on Friday. 

Yet the Hawks’s new statement that the raid was due to corruption allegations related to money, by a clerk, did not match up with the information on the search warrant. 

The warrant, which the M&G has seen, were vaguely drafted, to empower the Hawks to seize any documents. As quoted verbatim, the warrants state:

• Any document that would hold reference to the business of the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority];
• Any documentation that would hold reference to the business of other government departments indicating business with the NPA;
• Any documents, indicating that they hold reference to any court applications, police case files, or other law enforcement agencies who would have an expectation that the documents, if at [the] private residence, would never have been disclosed to unknown parties such as the individuals, the witness has described in his affidavit, took receipt of;
• Any bags, files or envelopes that would fit the description of that what was used by the witness to conceal the documents when removed from the NPA building; and
• Any storage device, such as computer hard drives, compact discs, memory sticks, that has the capacity to store data which might be the property of the NPA.

Further, Ramaloko has confirmed that a house of a lowly clerk was searched in a raid on Friday, understood to be an employee of the NPA, which Ramaloko tacitly admitted.

 ‘We raided some houses’
“We searched a house of a clerk, you can say NPA, whatever,” said Ramaloko on Friday. “It was the house of a clerk of the NPA, as you are saying.”

The M&G reported on Friday that several residences of NPA employees were raided by the Hawks in what is believed to be a frantic search for the controversial Zuma spy tapes, hours before President Jacob Zuma announced an inquiry into prosecutions chief Mxolisi Nxasana’s fitness to hold office. 

Ramaloko told the M&G on Thursday before publication: “We are confirming we raided some houses.”

He would not be drawn at the time on the institution involved or the reason for the raid, although there were private confirmations that it was triggered by the recent factional fights in the NPA and the desperate hunt for the tapes.

However after the article was published on Friday Ramaloko told news agency Sapa that the search focused on only “one staff member’s residence” and that it had to do with allegations of corruption, not the spy tapes. 

The M&G asked repeatedly before publishing the story what the basis for the raid was and who made the allegations, and was referred between the NPA and the Hawks for comment with no answer.

Corruption allegations
According to the Hawk’s new statement, Friday’s raid against an NPA clerk was supposedly due to corruption allegations. The employee targeted is perceived to be close to Nxasana’s rival; his deputy and former acting national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), Nomgcobo Jiba.

Although the M&G could not independently link the spy tapes to the raids, a source in the security institution with intimate knowledge of the raids said the searches were a “panicky” attempt by Nxasana to get the recordings before Zuma suspended him.

The M&G understands that the spy tapes were one of Nxasana’s first demands when he assumed office. Jiba apparently refused on the grounds that the new prosecutions chief didn’t have security clearance. This, according to the NPA sources, raised alarms about Nxasana’s intention regarding the tapes.

Just 16 hours after Friday’s raids, the president announced an inquiry to investigate Nxasana’s fitness to hold office. This came after state security refused to grant him security clearance for failing to disclose, among other things, a murder case in which he was acquitted almost three decades ago.

The tapes are crucial to whether the decision to drop corruption charges against President Jacob Zuma should be set aside. In 2009, the then national director of public prosecutions, Moketedi Mpshe, stopped the prosecution of Zuma, citing as his reason that the secret recordings revealed that senior NPA leaders were conspiring to charge Zuma.

The Democratic Alliance’s legal attempt to retrieve the recordings ended with the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that the NDPP should produce the records on which Mpshe based his decision to drop the case.

Nxasana would have been a central figure in deciding whether to hand the tapes over to the DA.

Jiba, when she was acting NPA head, refused to give the tapes to the DA. She is now challenging the matter.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms.  Read more from Verashni Pillay

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