/ 12 October 2020

Mpumalanga top cop under investigation

Lt Gen Bethuel Mondli Zuma Appears In Court
Patterns: Mondli Zuma was to have become Gauteng’s police commissioner in 2008, but faced charges for among other things, driving drunk. He was acquitted. Photo: Khaya Ngwenya/Gallo Images/City Press

Mpumalanga top cop Lieutenant General Bethuel Mondli Zuma is embroiled in an alleged cover-up of an accident involving a state-owned vehicle. 

Zuma, who is the provincial commissioner for Mpumalanga, was involved in a car crash on a Sunday in June while driving between the towns of Amsterdam and Piet Retief. 

The Mail & Guardian is in possession of the police licence plate number and the state’s registration number for the BMW X5 and has seen the invoice details for repairs to the vehicle, which will cost the state R181 863.10.

Allegations of the cover-up stem from claims that, after the accident, a driver employed by the South African Police Service (SAPS) “was called and arrived with General Mashika, who drove the provincial commissioner back to Nelspruit and plotted as if the vehicle was driven by [Zuma’s] driver,” said a well-placed source, who asked to remain anonymous. 

But SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the accident is being investigated.

The source said Zuma should face the same fate as Lieutenant General Dumisa Magadlela, who is facing charges of fraud, forgery and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly spending R9 000 using a police petrol card to fill a SAPS Nissan Pathfinder for a personal trip to the Eastern Cape. The case against Magadlela, the former national head of the forensics unit, was opened in July last year by the Independent Investigative Police Directorate. 

The South African Police Union (Sapu) said this week that they were aware of the alleged cover-up by Zuma, saying that there was “no way they can be swept under the carpet”.

Peter Ntsime, Sapu’s acting deputy general secretary, called on national commissioner general Khehla Sitole to investigate the claims in a transparent manner. “Without passing any judgment in this issue, Sapu feels it is only fair that General Sitole investigate these allegations.”

Speaking on behalf of Zuma, Naidoo denied the allegations that there was a cover-up of the crash, saying police had been called to the scene and arrived to investigate. “This office is not aware of any cover-up of the accident in Piet Retief. The case was registered, the police attended the scene and the matter is currently under investigation.” 

When asked whether the registered case for the car crash was opened against Zuma or his driver Naidoo would not be drawn into saying who is being investigated. 

“Reckless and negligent and culpable homicide cases, where two or more cars are involved, are generally not investigated against anyone. The different parties make their submissions, the case is investigated and the prosecutor makes his or her finding on who should be prosecuted,” Naidoo explained. 

Asked whether Zuma had also submitted his representations in the investigation, Naidoo said: “What is this about? You sent me a query and I responded. That is all I have to say.” 

Zuma was arrested in December 2008 and faced criminal charges for failing to stop when officers ordered him to, driving drunk, attempting to escape custody and defeating the ends of justice. 

This was after he did not stop at a midnight roadblock in Pietermaritzburg because, he said, he feared that it had been a trap set by criminals. He was acquitted on all charges in January 2014.  

This incident prevented Zuma from becoming Gauteng’s provincial commissioner in August 2013, a mere hours after then SAPS national head Riah Phiyega had appointed him to the post.

In a separate incident in December 2015, Zuma paid an admission of guilt fine for losing his service pistol after he had left it in his car inside his laptop bag.