On Monday this week the lawyer for George Louca – the man charged with Teazers’ boss Lolly Jackson’s murder in 2010 – made a subtle but telling reference to the defence’s mistrust of the South African Police Service’s Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation – the Hawks.
Owen Blumberg told reporters outside the Palm Ridge regional court that he had not handed over various statements deposed to and signed by his client to the Hawks investigators in charge of the Jackson murder case because of “certain concerns” the defence had.
The suggestion that Louca’s defence team is uncomfortable about handing over statements to investigators that may contain sensitive information, such as the identity of witnesses, turned a harsh spotlight on the way in which internal police tensions and dysfunction are spilling over into the public arena.
An interview with Louca on May?5 2012, broadcast on e.tv while he was fighting extradition from Cyprus, has a certain ring of veracity.
“To stay alive I have to keep my mouth shut. I spoke to [the investigating officer] about getting protection. He said: ‘No I can’t guarantee your protection.’ They know I wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger.
“I called the fucking police. I never told [ex-Gauteng intelligence boss Joey] Mabasa I killed Lolly. I told him who killed him. [Mabasa] said to me come to Harbour [Café], and when I showed up there I saw the four people, they will finish me there. That is the truth.”
Mabasa, who has since retired from the police after allegations that he and his wife had business links with Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir and his wife Katerina, claimed that Louca called to confess that he was the one who had shot Jackson.
Blumberg will ask for the withdrawal of the murder charge against Louca in representations he is due to hand over to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by Friday.
Louca’s statements will form part of these. In one of them, Louca reportedly points to Krejcir as the trigger man in the Jackson killing. The NPA said it would consider the representations, but was adamant that it had a strong case against Louca.
A source close to the murder case told amaBhungane this week that the different police units – the Hawks, crime intelligence division and the detective unit – involved in the Jackson matter and the Krejcir case are pulling in different directions, each with its own agenda.
What these are remain unclear, but they apparently relate to concerns that certain individuals may be entangled with the Czech fugitive.
Other sources involved with the state’s case scoff at Louca’s claim of innocence, but admit that there is tension and mistrust between the units.
Although Blumberg did not elaborate, his comments come amid heightened leadership instability within the country’s law enforcement agencies.
The most recently affected of these is the Hawks. Its boss, Anwa Dramat, was placed on precautionary suspension before Christmas. The official reason for this is that he is being investigated over his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of four “most wanted” Zimbabweans in 2010. Two were reportedly killed upon their return to Zimbabwe.
The Pretoria high court ruled last week, however, that Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s suspension of Dramat was unlawful.
Gauteng Hawks boss Shadrack Sibiya is also under investigation for his alleged involvement in the same matter.
The media have raised worrying questions about the appointment of Major General Mthandazo “Benny” Ntlemeza as Dramat’s replacement until the rendition probe is finalised.
There is disquiet over the fact that Ntlemeza penned the infamous “Ntlemeza report” that was used to support former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, suspended since 2012 on full pay.
The Mdluli upheavals
In 2012 the report was submitted as evidence by his legal team during an inquest at the Boksburg magistrate’s court into the death of his ex-lover’s husband, Oupa Ramogibe.
Mdluli was arrested and charged in 2011 with Ramogibe’s 1999 murder. The inquest found there was insufficient evidence to hold him responsible for the death.
In his report, Ntlemeza claimed that the reopening of the 13-year-old murder case was part of a counterintelligence plot to derail Mdluli’s promotion in mid-2009.
Mdluli also appears to have used the report to gain political favour. He allegedly sent it to President Jacob Zuma in November 2010 when the Hawks’ investigation into Mdluli and crime intelligence had gained traction.
He also attached a letter pledging his loyalty to Zuma and the ANC.
Dramat and Sibiya were among those named as members of the conspiracy allegedly trying to bring Mdluli down.
Mdluli remains suspended from the police, but is still very much a player. The campaign to protect him, and the constant dropping and reinstatement of charges against him, has had an enormously corrosive effect on police unity and morale.
“Integrity and discipline”
Riah Phiyega’s stated mission when she took over as national police commissioner in 2012 was to bring stability to the police through what was described at the time as “a clean-up strategy”.
A year later her spokesperson noted that, although she had detractors, she would not give up trying to restore “integrity and discipline” to the police following a “leadership void in the organisation”.
In reality, she has become a factor in the ongoing upheavals, and there are strong rumours that she could be the next senior police manager to face the axe.
In July 2012 Phiyega is alleged to have suspended Mdluli’s departmental disciplinary hearing.
Last year she was cleared by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate on charges of tipping off the Western Cape police commissioner, Arno Lamoer, that he was under investigation by crime intelligence.
Shortly afterwards she suspended acting intelligence head Chris Ngcobo, supposedly because of his lack of qualifications.
Phiyega’s attempts to pull together the various units working on the Krejcir case also seem to have miscarried. Eighteen months ago she announced she had established a task team consolidating all the relevant law enforcement agencies.
The task team was formed after several hair-raising events including the shooting of Sam Issa, a known underworld figure in Bedfordview, and a bomb explosion at Krejcir’s business in November 2013 that killed two of his associates.
Krejcir was arrested shortly after the explosion on charges relating to kidnapping and attempted murder. He remains in jail while he stands trial. Significantly, two of his co-accused are policemen, and several other police officers have been implicated and charged in relation to various other crimes allegedly linked to him.
Louca’s murder trial was due to start on Monday, but was postponed to April.
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