In November 2011, crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, then (as now) on suspension, addressed a letter to President Jacob Zuma.
He claimed some police generals were conspiring against him, and named the Hawks boss, Anwa Dramat, Bheki Cele, Mzwandile Petros and Godfrey Lebeya.
His spies, Mdluli told the president, reported that Dramat had said to General Shadrack Sibiya, the head of the Hawks in Gauteng, that he, Dramat, was not going to be diverted from his investigation of abuses in crime intelligence by anyone, “even the president”, because he was simply “doing his work”.
Well, the minister of police, Nathi Nhleko, abruptly and illegally suspended Dramat in December last year, allegedly after Dramat’s work strayed too close to some of the president’s interests.
And every general fingered by Mdluli is gone or going.
Sibiya, like Dramat, is on suspension over the same leaked Zimbabwe rendition allegations used to sideline the Hawks head.
Mdluli’s name also keeps coming up, including in the case of Robert McBride, the director of the Independent Police Investigation Directorate, whose imminent suspension is tied to that of Dramat and Sibiya.
In his unsuccessful court bid to forestall his suspension, McBride revealed that one of the charges levelled against him by Nhleko was that McBride had removed “a device” from Sibiya’s office on February 15 last year.
This action, Nhleko alleged, might have tampered with “evidence that might be incriminating” to Sibiya, McBride or Dramat.
McBride’s version is instructive: “On 10 February 2015, I received a call from Sibiya, who informed me that there were two colonels from crime intelligence in his office who requested the keys to his office because they wanted to seize a data?6 fax line, allegedly belonging to General Mdluli.”
A “data 6” is a machine used to send encrypted faxes.
“Sibiya contacted me in this regard, because he was under suspicion that a crime was about to be committed,” McBride said.
In separate court papers, Sibiya stated: “This is not the normal protocol as … they had no written request from their commander and this equipment contains extremely sensitive and encrypted information that they are not entitled to access or remove.”
McBride stepped in and seized the machine himself. Two days later he was carpeted by Nhleko and reprimanded over the “raid”.
It is hard to know how an encryption machine at the Hawks provincial office might “belong” to a suspended head of intelligence but then Mdluli seems to be a character around whom events turn.
In Sibiya’s application to have his suspension declared unlawful, he blamed his plight explicitly on Mdluli.
He stated: “Early in 2011, I was approached and instructed by Lieutenant General Lebeya, the then deputy national commissioner, to investigate the allegations against Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli.”
It was Sibiya who reopened the investigation into the 1999 murder of Oupa Ramogibe, a love rival of Mdluli, in which Mdluli was subsequently implicated.
“I have no hesitation in recording that I did my job well and am currently being ill-treated for having done so by his [Mdluli’s] allies …,” Sibiya said.
“My alleged involvement in the so-called ‘illegal rendition’ is contrived and my suspension is as a result of a conspiracy to discredit and remove me.”
Sibiya pointed out that the man who suspended him, acting Hawks boss Benny Ntlemeza, was the man chosen by Mdluli to conduct an “investigation” when the Ramogibe allegations resurfaced in the media in 2009.
Ntlemeza produced a flimsy report that “effectively exonerated” Mdluli.
Sibiya alleged that Ntlemeza was aggrieved by the fact that Sibiya’s team “questioned your report with a view to determine whether you defeated the ends of justice or not whilst you apparently covered for Lieutenant General Mdluli”.
McBride, too, blamed ulterior motives for the moves against him.
He stated: “The minister … has zealously pursued the suspension of both Dramat and Sibiya … Of serious concern is that these actions followed the [Hawks] becoming seized, under Dramat’s direction, with high profile investigations.
“The minister’s accusations that I have acted improperly, inter alia, by issuing the investigative report that ultimately cleared Dramat and Sibiya of involvement in the unlawful rendition, must be viewed in the context of the minister’s evident agenda to have Dramat and Sibiya removed.”
If McBride is also removed then Nhleko will soon get his hands on the data?6 box of secrets – and many other secret boxes besides.
It remains to be seen whether the minister’s aim with the directorate, as with the Hawks, is to open up the boxes – or keep them tightly shut.“My alleged involvement in the so-called ‘illegal rendition’ is contrived and my suspension is as a result of a conspiracy to discredit and remove me”
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