Newsmaker: There is no Nkandla probe, says new Hawks boss

2015-03-08 15:00

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Mthandazo Ntlemeza doesn’t show any of the past 10 weeks’ strain on his face. He says he can take some leave because now everything is “in place” at the Hawks.

Unlike his predecessor, Anwa Dramat, who was an Umkhonto weSizwe operative, the 58-year-old Ntlemeza began his career in 1982 fresh out of police college as a junior detective in the then homeland of Transkei.

Ntlemeza looks relaxed in his simply decorated office. The ghost of his predecessor appears long gone.

In his first interview since his appointment, Ntlemeza insists all the furore around his installation – reports of his allegiance to former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli and a reported purge of Dramat allies – is all down to “jealousy”.

“You can say it. It’s jealousy,” says Ntlemeza, reclining on the couch. “It could be that I am straightforward and don’t accept corruption.”

Ntlemeza says there was much resentment in the ranks and some Hawks officers went on a fishing expedition to try to find “dirt” on him.

“I know some officers in KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Town used to celebrate when the court ruled against my appointment. But now that has changed; they have accepted I am their leader and the morale is high now.”

Ntlemeza was appointed acting Hawks boss two days before Christmas, when Police Minister Nathi Nhleko suspended Dramat for his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of five Zimbabweans.

In his response to Nhleko, Dramat said he was aware of a plan to remove him because of cases he was overseeing. One, it later emerged, was an investigation into the R246?million renovations to President Jacob Zuma’s home in Nkandla.

In January, City Press reported that SA Police Service (SAPS) detectives head Lieutenant General Vinesh Moonoo, asked Dramat for the Nkandla docket. But Dramat refused and, seven minutes later, received a call from police commissioner General Riah Phiyega telling him to hand it over.

But this week, Ntlemeza told City Press there hadn’t been a Hawks investigation into the overspending at Nkandla.

“Other institutions, including the Public Protector, are handling it,” was all he would say on the matter.

Ntlemeza was rightly nervous when he received a call from “someone in the SAPS” on December 22 telling him to take the unit’s reins. Aside from the job’s political pitfalls, there were operational issues to deal with.

After a tour of Hawks offices in six provinces, he saw that the unit had become a “sick patient in ICU”.

“When I arrived here?...?I don’t want to discredit any person?...?But when I arrived, systems were not in place, for example. I found that, in each and every component, there was an acting head. It was like Hollywood.

“I found most of the components’ heads in acting positions. This one was acting in a post of general, that one in a post of brigadier, the other in the post of colonel.”

The result, he says, was that officers were unclear about their powers and unable do their work. Now he has advertised the positions, which are being filled.

Then, he says, he had to deal with racially divided units.

“When I arrived, I found the members in the anticorruption task team in KwaZulu-Natal were all Indians. I said: ‘Now you must make sure there are black, white and coloured people to make sure there is diversity, because when you are all Indians you are not going to be fair when you are investigating those people in the legislature and the people in general,’” he says.

And in the Western Cape’s anticorruption task team he found a unit that was exclusively white and male. “All were from the former Scorpions; you would find only one or two from the SAPS. I took a decision to appoint two black colonels,” he says.

On top of that, there were corrupt cops to deal with.

Ntlemeza says that, since he arrived, his unit has arrested 17 police officers, three of whom were members of the Hawks.

“I can tell you we are reviewing the matter where two crime intelligence officers who were linked to [alleged organised crime boss] Radovan Krejcir were allowed to return to work without facing a disciplinary hearing.”

Ntlemeza speaks of officers accepting bribes from suspects in return for quashing cases. He found “plenty” of other cases in which criminal cases were laid against Hawks officers that had been “dubiously closed”.

“The cases were against senior officers as well as junior members. I put together a team to look at the cases and continue with the investigations. Witnesses are now coming forward and we hope to resolve some of the cases soon,” he says.

Ntlemeza says he got the job on the strength of his experience, as well as his achievements. His CV lists 14 of them, starting with his membership in the detective team that investigated the coup attempt against Transkei leader General Bantu Holomisa in 1991.

“We solved the case with conviction and sentence,” he wrote.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission later heard that coup leader Colonel Craig Duli was shot in the back of the head at an army base in the then Umtata.

His most recent listed achievement is in Limpopo, where he said he reduced car theft, closed many chop shops and initiated a crime-fighting strategy that places high-visibility police operations front and centre.

What did not get him the job, he insists, is any friendship with Mdluli.

“I think today I should put the record straight. I know Mdluli – he was working in Vosloorus [Police Station] and I was working in Alexandra. He was a detective commander at Vosloorus. I was working at Alexandra as detective commander.

“I was later transferred to the Eastern Cape as a commissioner. Mdluli was in the Western Cape, and we were not even talking to each other. This nonsense. I don’t know about it. We used to meet like other colleagues when we attended courses.

“Mdluli is not my friend. He was my colleague?...?I don’t know this nonsense to say I am an Mdluli ally.”

Ntlemeza says the report he wrote alleging a conspiracy against Mdluli’s appointment was based on an internal police investigation he conducted into the affairs of the crime intelligence unit. His former boss, Limpopo police commissioner Fani Masemola, asked him to investigate at Mdluli’s request.

The report was submitted to the Boksburg Magistrates’ Court in support of Mdluli’s bail application after he was charged in connection with the murder of his lover’s husband, Oupa Ramogibe.

“My report was for internal, not criminal, investigation. It was not my mandate to investigate the criminal charges Mdluli faced at the time,” he says.

For Ntlemeza, policing is a family business. His wife, Thelma, is the police’s chief administrative clerk in Limpopo. One of their five adult daughters is a crime intelligence officer in Polokwane.

Perhaps they’ll understand if he is not able to take leave for a little while yet.

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