McBride’s ‘treason plot’: The events leading up to the Hawks’ charges

“You’re doing the bidding of white people trying to oust me. But this is a game. Today you take my warning statement; tomorrow I’ll take your warning statement.”

This is the chilling message Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigators claim Hawks boss Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza left them when he visited their offices this week.

The Ipid is investigating Ntlemeza for fraud, perjury and crimen injuria. The directorate is also investigating the acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, for corruption.

Without confirming or denying the alleged threat, Ntlemeza’s office refused to comment and directed questions to Robert McBride, the head of the Ipid.

Only a few hours later Ntlemeza’s subordinate, Gauteng Hawks boss Prince Mokotedi, laid nine charges at the Bedfordview police station against McBride, private investigator Paul O’Sullivan, Mokotedi’s predecessor Shadrack Sibiya and crime intelligence official Captain Candice Coetzee. Coetzee is suspended for allegedly leaking classified information to O’Sullivan.

The “treasonous” four’s crime, according to Mokotedi, is that they plotted against President Jacob Zuma and his supporters. In this list of supporters Mokotedi includes himself, Ntlemeza, Phahlane, National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams and the director general of the State Security Agency (SSA), Arthur Fraser. In his report Mokotedi mislabels Fraser as the head of the SSA.

O’Sullivan is also said to have collected “damaging evidence” against Duduzane Zuma, the president’s son, to be used to force Zuma to resign.

The nine charges in Mokotedi’s affidavit are high treason, espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, corruption, intimidation, harassment, defeating the ends of justice, tax evasion and a contravention of the immigration laws.

Substance and evidence for these serious charges, Mokotedi claims, have been derived from a discussion at a braai on December 3.

According to Mokotedi, the treasonous four concocted the following plan to cripple the president to oust him:

  • Murder Mokotedi and Ntlemeza;
  • Use information gathered on Duduzane Zuma “to mobilise the community to revolt and pressure the president to quit office”;
  • “Mobilise for an Arab Spring type of revolt in the country”; and
  • “Destabilise the security forces of the country to oust the president of the country through popular revolt.”

This scheme was allegedly cooked up at the former house of Czech gangster Radovan Krejcir, Mokotedi says. O’Sullivan now owns the house in Bedfordview.

Representatives of AfriForum and the Democratic Alliance are said to have been present.

Mokotedi further links the four with what he calls an “intelligence report”. The report describes a meeting at the Michelangelo Hotel on December  12 between “DCPI” (Directorate of Priority Crimes Unit – Mokotedi got his organisation’s initials wrong) officials, “Zimbambwean” intelligence officials and Serbians.

It states that the “purpose of the meeting was to discuss the strategy of dealing with Ntlemeza, Mokotedi and the witnesses on the rendition matter, which they perceived general Ntlemeza as a dangerous man who may not be leaved [sic] to run the police and who later brought major general Mokotedi to do the ground work as the major Mokotedi is familiar with the law”.

Ntlemeza and Mokotedi “must be dealt with immediately include and that we should be assassinated because we are seen as the ones who are pursuing the rendition matter”, Mokotedi wrote in his affidavit.

The strategy is said to “implicate them of corruption”.

Mokotedi’s affidavit suggests he has based all of this on the word of a single source. There is no indication of evidence to substantiate any of the charges. An “intelligence report” is not admissible in court.

Since the Mail & Guardian broke the story on Monday, Mokotedi seems to have struggled to keep his story straight.

In a radio interview on Wednesday morning, Mokotedi claimed the information in his affidavit has been corroborated by information he received in March. This was not mentioned in his affidavit. He also contradicted his affidavit, claiming on air that the assassination plot was hatched around the braai. In his affidavit, the plan is said to have been discussed at the Michelangelo Hotel.

McBride has a different story to tell and believes the charges of treason brought against him are directly related to his investigation into Ntlemeza and Phahlane.

“It is serious charges that we are investigating against Ntlemeza and Phahlane because of the position they hold. But it is nothing as exotic as treason,” he said. “Prince is hearing voices.”

Sibiya said: “The Prince is confused. He must decide if he wants to be a policeman, a politician or a pastor. All three in one confuses him and causes danger to him, because he doesn’t know where he belongs.”

Sibiya explained that a meeting did take place on December 3, but denied that any conspiracy against Zuma, Mokotedi or Ntlemeza was hatched.

“On December 2, I received an SMS from Paul O’Sullivan’s assistant asking for a meeting on December 3 at 3pm.”

The M&G has seen the SMS. It details an address for where the meeting would take place, but gives no further context.

Sibiya says he didn’t know it was Krejcir’s former address.

“I had to use my GPS to get there. When I arrived, we were told the discussion was about Paul’s report, Joining the Dots. He wrote it in conjunction with AfriForum. Paul asked [for] our input, because we were mentioned in his report. That was it. We didn’t discuss President Zuma, his son or Mokotedi.

“Mokotedi clearly knows what he should say to make the politicians angry. They want to give Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko reason to suspend McBride,” said Sibiya.

Déjà vu: Anyone remember Browse Mole?

The Prince Mokotedi report accusing the “treasonous” four of plotting against President Jacob Zuma seems to borrow from the dubious Browse Mole, Ground Coverage and Spider Web “intelligence reports” – it makes grandiose claims but is thin on fact (see What the other reports said, below).

In each of them Zuma and his cohorts are the central figures.

The Mokotedi report was “never meant to assist a court to secure a conviction” and every indication points to an “ulterior motive”, analysts say. They believe the aim is to create confusion while smearing Robert McBride, Paul O’Sullivan, Shadrack Sibiya and Candice Coetzee, as well as any information they plan to reveal.

It further provides Police Minister Nathi Nhleko with a new reason to suspend McBride again.

It is worth noting that McBride, the head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, is investigating Nhleko’s links with his girlfriend’s business deals. He also has Hawks boss Mthandazo Ntlemeza and acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane in his sights.

The Mokotedi report further claims O’Sullivan gathered damaging information on Duduzani Zuma to force the resignation of his father, the president. (The reasoning is that Zuma Sr will surely be forced to resign over Duduzani – after he survived 783 charges of corruption, a rape case and Nkandla.)

“This is fact and fiction intertwined,” independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga says.

“I won’t be surprised if O’Sullivan actually has collected information on Duduzani. History shows he never was very wrong. With this tactic, Prince Mokotedi is creating doubt around any information that will come out of McBride’s quarters.

“These kinds of allegations are never meant to be investigated. It is only to create an environment of blanket doubt about its victims. These wild allegations show Jacob Zuma knows the noose is tightening,” Mathekga says.

Former police officer and Unisa lecturer Professor Rudolph Zinn agrees with Mathekga, saying it is “extremely strange” that Mokotedi’s information is being played out in public. “Basic investigation processes have not been followed,” Zinn said.

“This could never have been detailed in a four-and-a-half page affidavit. Based on the complexity of treason and espionage charges, the paperwork in the past has been contained in 55 lever-arch files. There is every indication that this case was brought with an ulterior motive.”

What the other reports said

The Browse Mole report was commissioned by Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and leaked to the media in 2007. It outlined a plot hatched by Angolan intelligence to support Jacob Zuma covertly, then the ousted deputy president, to be reinstated as president by any means necessary.

Ground Coverage was leaked in 2012 and signed off by suspended crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli, who claims his signature was forged. It alleged Tokyo Sexwale, Zweli Mkhize and Bheki Cele plotted to overthrow Zuma.

Spider Web suggested the treasury was captured by apartheid-era intelligence operatives and white capital who ultimately controlled the country’s finances. It was leaked in 2015.

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Pauli van Wyk
Pauli van Wyk is a Scorpio investigative journalist. She writes about the justice cluster, state-owned companies, state politics and the inescapable collision course they're on. Pauli cut her teeth at Media24. She became a journo at Beeld, was trained by the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism and joined Mail & Guardian's investigative team before becoming a member of Scorpio.

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