Desperate Mdluli departs from norm, says former crime intelligence boss

2011-04-16 21:34

In a rare interview, former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego speaks exclusively to City Press about the conspiracy claims made against him by his disgraced successor, Richard Mdluli

City Press (CP): Your name has been mentioned in court papers filed in the bail application of crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli.

In the documents, which Mdluli also claims to have submitted to the president, he alleges that the charges brought against him emanate from a conspiracy by people loyal to you and aligned to former president Mbeki, who did not want him to get the job of head of intelligence.

In a rare interview, former crime intelligence boss Mulangi Mphego speaks exclusively to City Press about the conspiracy claims made against him by his disgraced successor, Richard Mdluli City Press (CP):
What is your comment on this and what are you doing about it?

Mulangi Mphego (MM): Mr Mdluli is facing serious charges ranging from murder to kidnapping. I have no idea of the conspiracy that he refers to and how it relates to the serious charges he faces.

I have never been charged with murder and would not know the extent to which the prospect of a conviction would motivate people to depart from the truth.

I am, however, gravely concerned about the mention of my name in relation to a matter I have no involvement in and have brought my concerns to the attention of the relevant authorities of the state.

I await their direction as to how I should proceed in the matter.

CP: Mdluli singles out commissioners Tim Williams and Africa Khumalo as the people who did not want him to ascend to the position of head of intelligence because he did not have the political background that you shared with both of them. What is your comment?

MM: I make no apology for my political background.

I did not have any special relationship with any of the panel members, and simply cannot understand how anybody would conclude that people who were not participating in the selection process could have influenced the outcome in any way. Commissioner Williams and late commissioner Khumalo were not involved in the appointment process and could not have influenced decisions that were being taken elsewhere.

CP: In the document, Mdluli accuses you and your former colleagues of being partisan in favour of former president Thabo Mbeki during the 2007 ANC conference. Is this true? If not, can you please explain why such an allegation would be made?

MM: Those rumours were originally conjured by opportunistic elements within the police who wanted to ingratiate themselves with power by casting aspersions on the role of crime intelligence in Polokwane.

The fact is that crime intelligence is required to play a supporting role to all operational units of the police and was deployed in Polokwane for that purpose.

It is exceedingly ignorant for anyone to suggest that crime intelligence has no role to play where the safety of the Cabinet is involved.

By the way, Mdluli was a detective in Gauteng at the time and was never deployed to do any policing function in Polokwane.

I am quite surprised that this rumour re-emerges through his hand.

CP: Mdluli also mentions an “Mphego issue” that has been dealt with. What is this all about? Could it be possible that Mdluli is making up everything, requesting the president to intervene in order to escape prosecution?

MM: I do not know, but it is extremely unusual and disreputable for a head of an intelligence organisation anywhere in the world to lay bare in the public domain communications he might have had with the head of state.

It is as much a cardinal sin as it would be to disclose the identity of intelligence sources. It is not done.

CP: Questions are also raised about the intercepts of Sheryl Cwele (wife of state security minister Siyabonga Cwele). Does this not question the credibility of the method police used to investigate the case?

The subtext seems to suggest that the interception itself was an attempt by your operatives to discredit a key supporter of President Jacob Zuma.

What is your comment?

MM: I cannot comment on specific operations, save to say that communication interception is an investigation tool which is permissible in our law.

It is an offence in terms of South African law to deal in illicit drugs and narcotics, and normal people would encourage law-enforcement efforts that deal with the scourge of illegal narcotics. Luckily, our constitutional dispensation regards everyone as equal before the law.

The issue of social status and political linage does not arise.

CP: Was the state security minister part of the panel that interviewed you and Mdluli?

MM: Yes

CP: During 2008/9 you were embroiled in a bitter public confrontation with Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa after you were overlooked for appointment in favour of Mdluli. Were you disappointed that the selection panel found Mdluli more competent than you? What was the basis of your complaint?

MM: Firstly there was no one on that panel who had policing or intelligence training, so the outcome could not have been reflective of any competence in those skills.

Those who adjudicated over the process and made the appointment are better placed to gauge whether they indeed achieved what they set out to achieve.

Secondly, I complained because the entire process that was adopted was different from processes laid down in policy and which had been applied during the selection process of all other divisional commissioners in the police.

The process was evidently not legal. I complained about this even before I was interviewed.

CP: Why did you leave the police? Did this have to do with the fact that Mdluli was then going to be your direct boss?

MM: I asked to retire because the situation had become untenable for me to continue to serve. At the time the DSO had brought trumped-up charges of defeating the ends of justice against me which were withdrawn by an independent court for lacking substance.

Under the circumstances, and particularly in view of the fact that I was expected to be in charge of a contingent of law-enforcement officers who are themselves in the business of prosecuting suspects, my professional integrity to lead the organisation had been effectively undermined.

CP: Some of your colleagues whom you left behind were not happy to see you leave. Would they have made life more difficult for Mdluli because they felt you were short-changed?

MM: I do not believe so.

CP: You have been accused in the media of leaking classified recordings that saved the president from prosecution. Is it normal and permissible for intelligence officers to do this?

MM: That is an invention of a faceless source and Amabhungane, who have been quite determined to pass off false information as truth. The accusation is based on dangerous assumptions and events that never took place.

I have tried and failed to get the editors of the Mail & Guardian and City Press, which subsequently repeated this accusation, to correct this.

All intercepts and material that had relevance to that matter were handed directly to the acting NDPP and his team. It would have been outrageous for the intelligence community to hide from the prosecutor material that was evidently relevant to the case under consideration by the State.

CP: What is the norm in intelligence when it comes to declassification of secret documents? Did Mdluli follow all the processes when he declassified the report purporting to have been sent to President Zuma?

MM: I am not privy to the circumstances that motivated him to declassify.

If my memory serves me well, he would have had to seek the concurrence of the head of counter-intelligence and the national commissioner.

CP

: The information contained in the report seems to fall outside the mandate of crime intelligence but leans towards party politics. Is this assessment correct and how could this be possible?

MM: At the time that I was serving, crime intelligence did not have a political mandate.

CP: The role you played in videotapes which surfaced during the trial of former commissioner Jackie Selebi had many gasping.

What purpose did those tapes serve in crime intelligence and what information came out of it which is useful for police today?

Were these tapes an attempt to protect Selebi, who is said to be your friend?

MM: I had a good working relationship with Commissioner Selebi, like many others who worked with him.

The tapes were made in pursuance of Operation Destroy Lucifer. This operation started in 2002, and as far as I am aware the investigation against Commissioner Selebi began in 2006.

This is another falsehood which is continuously repeated in the media without basic examination of the facts. To suggest that it was meant to counter the DSO investigation is simply false and downright mischievous.

CP: Your run-ins with the Scorpions. You were charged and these charges were withdrawn in court. What now for Mphego, and is this matter done and dusted?

MM: My attorneys are still seized with the matter until I can clear my name.

CP: Did the change in the prosecution team by NDPP Simelane help you to have your case withdrawn?

MM: The case was withdrawn by court and not the prosecution. The judgment recorded that the State was either not ready or unable to prosecute.

CP: What are you doing now?

MM: I am retired from state services.


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