Ranjeni Munusamy, a senior journalist from the Tiso Blackstar Group received money to settle the balance she owed on a car from a slush fund of Crime Intelligence, the judicial inquiry into state capture heard on Wednesday.
An amount of R143 621.78 was allegedly transferred into a Wesbank account to settle a vehicle which was registered in Munusamy’s name in 2008.
Testifying before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — senior Hawks officer Kobus Roelofse said he had discovered the payment while investigating allegations of corruption between the Crime Intelligence Division of the South African Police Service and Atlantis Motors, a car dealership based in Centurion, Pretoria.
Roelefse detailed how former Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdululi allegedly used over R300 000 from a crime intelligence account to fund overseas travel for him and his family.
In 2015, Jan Venter, the principal dealer at Atlantis Motors testified before a Pretoria regional court. He said a slush fund of Crime Intelligence, which was meant to compensate undercover operatives, was instead used to fund transactions at the dealership. He further alleged that the dealership made donations to a church in Edenvale which was associated with former financial head Lieutenant General Solly Lazarus.
There are other alleged anomalies linked to the slush fund.
The account in the name of the fund is said to have also paid nearly half a million rand to a blinds installation company that did not actually exist in a letter penned by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in 2017.
However, Roelofse has said that the payment made to settle the vehicle owned by Munusamy was done in 2008 — at a time that she was not employed as a journalist.
She was also linked to the the Friends of Jacob Zuma website, which she described in a Daily Maverick article as “a platform where ordinary people could pledge their support for Zuma and which carried legal documents and reports on his trials. It also carried details of the bank account where people could make donations towards his legal defence and upkeep.”
Munusamy had previously departed the Sunday Times amidst huge controversy. As the paper’s political editor she leaked documents to rival publisher City Press which then ran a story titled ‘Was Ngcuka a spy?’ In the story national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka was alleged to have been an apartheid spy, a claim which was later found to be false. City Press was later forced to retract and apologise to Ngcuka.
Munusamy resigned from Sunday Times before disciplinary action was taken against her. As a result of the article, a presidential commission headed by Judge Joos Hefer was instituted to establish the truth about allegations made by Munusamy. She was subpoenaed to testify before the commission, but refused, citing fear of breaching her ethical duties to a confidential source.
Munusamy resigned and after a spell away, she became the spokesperson for then higher education minister Blade Nzimande in 2009, but after falling out with him, she went to work for the Daily Maverick.
Munusamy rejoined the Tiso Blackstar group in 2017 as an associate editor.
The group released a statement following Roelefse’s testimony, acknowledging the allegations levelled against Munusamy at the Zondo commission, but say she was an independent contractor at the time of the alleged transaction.
Tiso Blackstar further added that they “adhere to the doctrine of presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the natural justice that includes hearing both sides of the story”.
“The company will make a final decision on this matter following the conclusion of its own internal investigations, taking into consideration the company’s interests, its policies and Munusamy’s rights,” the statement reads.
Munusamy has since been placed on special leave.