The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) request that a closed fraud case be reopened and fully investigated by its Polokwane counterparts could signal trouble for the Hawks commander, Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza.
AmaBhungane has seen part of a letter from the office of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) in North Gauteng to Polokwane’s deputy director of prosecutions on November 27 last year.
Typed on paper with a NPA letterhead, the letter states: “It appears that the decision to decline to prosecute was taken prematurely without the matter having been fully investigated. Kindly ensure that … further investigation is completed without delay.”
The investigation referred to was of a complaint by a Limpopo-based police lieutenant, Boitumelo Ramahlaha, who accused Ntlemeza of defeating the ends of justice.
The lieutenant said Ntlemeza had taken no action against a former police captain, Thomas Rallele, who had been found by an internal police investigation to have falsified vehicle log entries. Ramahlaha alleged this was because Rallele was romantically involved with Ntlemeza’s daughter, Amanda.
Ramahlaha first blew the whistle in December 2014, when Ntlemeza was still the Limpopo deputy police commissioner.
“it never handled your matter as per your representation”
A fraud case was lodged at the Polokwane police station in April last year, but a few months later, on August 7, it was logged as being closed, just a month before Ntlemeza’s permanent appointment to head the Hawks, the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) specialised crime-fighting unit.
AmaBhungane understands that Ramahlaha requested clarity from the NPA on the status of the docket.
On November 23 last year, the deputy national director of prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, informed Ramahlaha that, according to the office of the North Gauteng DPP, “it never handled your matter as per your representation”.
Her statement is supported by the fact that the case had not moved beyond the Polokwane police station when it was closed.
But it appears that, following further inquiries, the docket was found and scrutinised by the North Gauteng DPP. The letter to the prosecuting authorities in Limpopo demanding further investigation then followed.
AmaBhungane put questions to the NPA, the Hawks and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), but received little clarity from them.
The NPA said: “Kindly be advised that the matter has been referred to SAPS for further investigation.” The IPID said it could not meet the Mail & Guardian’s deadline, and the Hawks said: “We are not responding.”
“Complaint Against Unprofessional Conduct Major General Ntlemeza SAPS: Limpopo”
Ramahlaha first spoke out in a note he sent to the minister of police, Nathi Nhleko, 10 days before Ntlemeza was appointed acting head of the Hawks before Christmas 2014. He titled the note “Complaint Against Unprofessional Conduct Major General Ntlemeza SAPS: Limpopo”.
The minister’s office received the note on December 18.
In the three-page note, Ramahlaha questions Ntlemeza’s integrity. He specifically refers to the case of Rallele, complaining that Ntlemeza shielded him despite claims that he was implicated in a February 2012 report following an internal investigation into the abuse of state resources.
Ramahlaha claims that, although Ntlemeza got the report, he did not institute internal disciplinary procedures or lay criminal charges against Rallele.
In early 2014, Rallele was charged after being caught red-handed with a phone allegedly stolen during a house break-in.
Despite his conviction in September, he continued to draw his police salary throughout his seven-month trial and for three months after it ended.
He was fired in December 2014.
In a January 2015 affidavit, Ramahlaha says it was after he heard of Ntlemeza’s appointment that he registered a formal complaint against Ntlemeza with the IPID.
According to his lawyer, Yolandi Hewetson, the matter was being “diligently investigated” until the IPID head, Robert McBride, was suspended at the end of March last year. It had then stalled.
About a month after he lodged the fraud case against Rallele, in May 2015, the Hawks laid charges of fraud against Ramahlaha.
He is accused of introducing Alex Maake, a convicted criminal who posed as a senior police officer, to police units in Limpopo.
Maake, on the run after breaking out of jail in 2012, spent two years impersonating a police officer, calling himself Captain Alex Mailula.
He is serving a 14-year sentence in Pretoria’s Kgosi Mampuru II prison.
Ramahlaha has denied the charges. Hewetson told amaBhungane that her client maintains the investigation is a “malicious witch-hunt”.
Before his appointment as the Hawks boss, Ntlemeza had already attracted controversy. Pretoria high court Judge Elias Matojane found that he lacked integrity, honesty and honour after perjuring himself in court earlier last year.
A day after Ntlemeza’s September 10 appointment, his daughter, Amanda, sent Ramahlaha abusive and threatening text messages.
These were allegedly followed 10 days later by a “visit” from a senior Hawks investigator, Lieutenant Colonel Lesiba Malapile “and his team”, according to Hewetson.
The lawyer said that Malapile, who was in charge of the Hawks’ investigation of Ramahlaha, told him that he was not going to “win against the general”, an apparent reference to Ntlemeza.
Since that alleged visit, Malapile has been withdrawn from the Ramahlaha investigation, allegedly after his behaviour became a liability.
Malapile is alleged to have sexually propositioned at least two female suspects linked to the Hawks’ investigation of Ramahlaha.
“Retasked with other matters in line with management discretion”
The Hawks confirmed Malapile’s removal from the case, but did not explain why he was taken off it. The unit’s spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said Malapile “has been retasked with other matters in line with management discretion”.
Ramahlaha, Maake’s wife Isabella, and a provincial education department official, Portia Mehlape, were arrested in October for allegedly being in illegal communication with Maake.
Their case has been postponed to February.
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