Following a City Press report yesterday that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had – like controversial crime intelligence boss Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli – allegedly abused the police ‘secret fund’ by building a security wall at his KwaMbonambi house in the northern KwaZulu-Natal – the minister has now threatened to investigate and “unmask those behind these continuous false accusations against [him] and their motives”.
City Press reported allegations that Hawks were investigating the R200 000 from the ‘secret fund’ which Mthethwa used to renovate his house. The investigation, however, has since been shut down by the minister himself, said the newspaper after it “uncovered” that he had allegedly driven a luxury Mercedes-Benz SUV bought by crime intelligence’s ‘secret fund’ during a period of 15 months. But the minister has denied this.
The information of the minister’s abuse of the secret fund, claimed City Press, was contained in a top-secret report handed over to acting police chief Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi in March this year, which named Mthethwa in the plundering of the R200 million secret service account. The newspaper spoken to seven police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) sources with knowledge of the minister’s alleged involvement in the “slush fund” probe, some of whom had insights into the secret report.
NB: I personally do not believe in newspapers using “sources” loosely and unecessarily: the abuse of sources, that is. This, however, does not mean parties implicated by sources should use threats – like Bosasa went to court a month or so ago, asking Mail & Guardian to reveal identity of its sources, which I defended (M&G) at the time as the revelation would hamper and threaten fair journalism investigation.
In March City Press reported that Mdluli was deeply implicated in the looting of crime intelligence through the alleged misuse of state vehicles, safe houses and a police travel agency. “Despite the Inspector General of Intelligence recommending that fraud charges relating to the purchase of private BMWs for him and his wife be reinstated, Mdluli’s suspension from the police was lifted last week and he is back on the job”, claimed City Press. The newspaper further claimed Mthethwa was “instrumental in the reinstatement” of Mdluli and the finance head of crime intelligence, Major General Solly Lazarus, against the will of Mkhwanazi.
Although the minister has denied any corruption on his part, many people (this writer included) ask why the minister was “instrumental” in reinstating Mdludi as alleged in City Press and as previously claimed by Mail and Guardian reports.
Sources told City Press this is because Mthethwa was trying “to save his own skin” – a convincing claim indeed because of the way Mdluli saga has ended and the alleged involvement of top politicians like President Zuma, who also denied this. “That’s why he’s pushing this thing down (the investigation into crime intelligence). He knows (that he is implicated),” a police source told City Press this Sunday.
Another source said “the squashing of the Hawks investigation [came] straight from the minister”. He went on to say: “If investigations continue, he [Mthethwa] will also be exposed as a beneficiary of crime intelligence”. The “security renovations” at Mthethwa’s house were done after a risk assessment conducted by Mdluli in May 2012, City Press cited the police report handed over to Mkwanazi.
According to the newspaper, the police report alleged that between September 14 2010 and January 31 last year, three amounts totalling R195 581.45 were paid out of the crime intelligence secret fund for Mthethwa’s renovations. It is further alleged Mthethwa “knew where the money came from”.
These payment, said City Press citing the report, were approved by Lazarus and were illegal as the secret fund could only be utilised to finance secret covert crime intelligence operations. Further, said the newspaper, this is because renovations at Cabinet ministers are done by the department of Public Works.
The report to Mkhwanazi also revealed that Hawks investigators found evidence showing Mthethwa used a Mercedes-Benz SUV, bought in 2010 in Umhlanga with crime intelligence secret funds, between March 2010 and June last year, City Press reported. It said same vehicle was used by Lazarus and was later driven toCape Town for Mdluli’s use whenever he visited the city. In total, Mthethwa, Mdluli and Lazarus drove 5 600km in the car, according to the report.
It is alleged in the police report that investigators from the Hawks found copies of the claims relating to Mthethwa’s renovations in the safe of a senior crime intelligence officer who claimed Lazarus ordered him to make copies of the claim after an apparent fallout between suspended police chief Bheki Cele and Mthethwa.
Inspector General of Intelligence, Advocate Faith Radebe, recommended on March 6 that Mdluli’s suspension be lifted, but not Lazarus’s, reported Mail and Guardian.
Last week Mthethwa told Redi Tlhabi on Talk Radio 702 it was Radebe who ordered the reinstatement of Mdluli and Lazarus yet failing to note Radebe’s subsequent letter dated 19 March which had recommended that Mdluli should face criminal charges fraud.
It comes as a surprise that when M&G reported extensively on the Mdluli saga on 30 March (“Friends in high places rescue Mdluli” and “Mdluli report’s shocking revelations“) and on 5 April last week (“How Mdluli got job back despite spy inspector’s doubts“) – the minister never threatened to investigate who might have leaked the police report to M&G but when City Press notes his implication on and alleged abuse of the crime intelligence’s “secret fund” he threatens to “unmusk” the newspaper’s sources.
Or maybe both newspapers (City Press and M&G) reported on two different police reports?
Even if that is the case, but to threaten to “unmusk” sources that leaked the report to City Press (or any other newspaper for that matter) is wrong and smacks of media threat, especially on investigative journalism whose livelihood depends on information gathering from different and credible sources, bearing in mind not to abuse and misuse them.
Although one should commend Mthethwa for “telephonically” asking the Auditor General to investigate the abuse of “secret funds” allegations – but to do so with the intention of unmusking sources in his ministry makes one wonder whether the minister is more traumatised by sources themselves and what they claim, and less concerned about the alleged corruption in his ministry in both short- and long-term and the impact it would have on its credibility.