Former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen could not trust Berning Ntlemeza — at the time he was his superior — to report his visit to the Gupta compound, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Friday.
During the fourth day of his testimony before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — Booysen recounted his alleged encounter with Rajesh ‘Tony’ Gupta at the family’s Saxonwold home in August 2015.
Booysen alleged that he was driven to the Gupta residence by former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane.
When asked if he took any steps to report the surprise meeting to his superior at the Hawks, Booysen said that it had already become “abundantly clear” that “Ntlemeza was not somebody to be trusted”.
Ntlemeza was at the time the acting head of the Hawks. He was appointed after the suspension and resignation of Anwa Dramat in 2014.
According to Booysen, he only reported the alleged meeting after Ntlemeza was ordered by the high court to vacate the post in April 2017. Booysen said Ntlemeza’s removal prompted him to prepare an affidavit about the Saxonwold meeting to be handed over to his new boss, Yolisa Matakata.
“I just thought it would be prudent to tell her [Matakata] that I had met with the Guptas myself,” Booysen said.
Booysen — who was at the time being considered to take over as the head of the Hawks — told the commission that he was driven to the Saxonwold compound in Duduzane Zuma’s black Rolls Royce. His son, Eben, followed the pair from Sandton to Saxonwold in his vehicle, Booysen said.
According to Booysen, when they reached Saxonwold his son asked: “Deda, is ons waar ek dink ons is?”
They were asked to hand over their cell phones before they were introduced to Gupta, Booysen said.
The alleged meeting was previously detailed in Jacques Pauw’s book The President’s Keepers.
Booysen told Pauw that, when he got into Zuma’s car on that day he “had no idea” that they were driving to the Gupta residence.
Booysen testified that at the meeting, Gupta congratulated him for being considered to take over as the national head of the Hawks. “Very few people knew that I had been shortlisted for the post,” Booysen added.
According to Booysen, Gupta said they would have a celebratory dinner in KwaZulu-Natal if he was eventually appointed. “I didn’t respond because it was a bit of an uncomfortable situation,” Booysen said.
Booysen said that the implication was that, should he be appointed, Gupta “would have had a hand in my appointment and I would be indebted to him”. He conceded that this was “never said”, but was what he understood from the exchange.
Earlier in his testimony, Booysen spoke about his growing distrust of Ntlemeza. “When he [Ntlemeza] was appointed all hell broke loose … I cannot describe it in any other way,” he said.
Booysen alleged that, prior to Ntlemeza’s appointment as acting Hawks head, there was “an unholy alliance” between him and then Crime Intelligence boss Richard Mdluli to get rid of Dramat.
Dramat was suspended in 2014 for his alleged involvement in the unlawful renditions of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010.
Booysen referred to an affidavit by Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigator Innocent Khuba, who alleged that Ntlemeza told him in as early as September 2013 that he would head the Hawks.
Khuba also alleged that he met with Ntlemeza in December 2014 at a Wimpy restaurant in Polokwane. “I found him seated inside. He said that his time to move to the Hawks had arrived and that there was going to be a hit on Dramat.”
Booysen said on Friday that Ntlemeza was “undoubtedly handpicked for the position”. “It is the only conclusion that I can come to,” Booysen said, telling the commission that Ntlemeza was not “remotely” equipped to run the Hawks.
According to Booysen, Dramat was at the helm of the Hawks when a number of corruption investigations had been underway. Dramat occupied the post when Mdluli was charged with fraud and corruption in 2011.
“My conclusion is that they had to get rid of Dramat because he was looking into the Mdlulis of the day … He was replaced by someone pliable like Ntlemeza,” Booysen said.