New spy war in SAPS
Julian Rademeyer and Anna-Maria Lombard, City Press
Johannesburg - A vicious smear campaign targeting a senior police spy master is at the heart of a crippling battle for control of the police’s crime intelligence division.
The attempt to discredit Major General Mark Hankel, who briefly served as acting crime intelligence head after the arrest of police spy boss Richard Mdluli for murder, is the latest in a series of recent scandals involving the division.
Hankel is head of the division’s operational intelligence analysis section.
Senior police have warned that the crime intelligence division has been all but crippled by the scandals in which it has become embroiled.
City Press can reveal that classified police documents, which attempt to link Hankel to the abduction and murder of Eastern Cape political activist Matthew Goniwe in 1985, have been systematically leaked to a number of journalists over the past three weeks by an intermediary acting on behalf of an unnamed "source".
Police insiders claim Hankel was targeted because he was seen as a likely candidate to succeed Mdluli.
And police believe the smear was orchestrated by someone embittered at Hankel’s appointment as acting head.
The documents, which include a "top secret information note" dated July 6 last year and bearing a signature attributed to the head of police counter-intelligence, Major General Dan Mokgabudi, call into question Hankel’s "top secret" security clearance status.
It alleges that during an August 2008 polygraph test, he "reacted significantly to questions pertaining [to the]) commission of a serious crime”.
According to the note, Hankel was retested and failed again "until he had admitted to conspiring in the death of Matthew Goniwe... who he had attended the same university with, Fort Hare, during the apartheid government".
The note continues: "This office (counterintelligence) resolves that the current valid security clearance issued to... Hankel be withdrawn with immediate effect and his current position in crime intelligence be reconsidered for placement where a clearance to the level of top secret would not be a requirement."
But the allegations contained in the document appear to be factually flawed.
The information note was apparently sent to Mdluli and a response, marked "secret" and dated July 22 last year, was sent to both Mokgabudi and Hankel.
The letter states that in terms of the National Strategic Intelligence Act, Mdluli, as head of police crime intelligence, has a "discretion to issue, degrade, withdraw or refuse to grant a security clearance after evaluating the information gathered during the security screening investigation".
But rather than degrading or withdrawing Hankel’s clearance, another vetting of Hankel was ordered.
Contacted by City Press on two separate occasions, Mokgabudi claimed he knew "nothing" about the document.
“Where did you get those documents? You know, our names are so much in the newspape,? I don’t want to answer anything, please."
Mdluli could not be reached for comment and Hankel declined to talk.
Police spokesperson McIntosh Polela said they could not support or dispute the claim that the note was designed to smear Hankel.
Polela said: "Mark Hankel himself has not indicated that he is interested in contesting the post [of crime intelligence head] should it become vacant. In fact, such a question never arose."
According to Polela, there is no investigation into the leaking of the document yet, but "management will have a look at them to make an assessment". He wouldn’t be drawn on whether Hankel undertook a polygraph test. "It is confidential," he said.
Earlier this year, City Press revealed that Hawks investigators had evidence that their phones were being illegally tapped by crime intelligence officers.
Relations between the two divisions are said to have broken down completely and it is understood the Hawks now make use of the National Intelligence Agency for operational support.
Following Mdluli’s arrest for the murder of an alleged love rival in 1999, a supposed "ground coverage intelligence report", which alleged that senior ANC figures were embroiled in a bizarre conspiracy to oust President Jacob Zuma, was leaked to the media.
At a press conference last week, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale, one of the alleged "plotters" named in the report, slammed the allegations as "libelous".
Sexwale also expressed concerns that his phones may have been tapped, and cautioned: "I am told we have not seen the last of these dirty tricks."