Police minister's slush fund secret
Jacques Pauw, Adriaan Basson and Paddy Harper, City Press
Johannesburg - The security wall around his property may explain why Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is determined to shut down a Hawks investigation into a crime intelligence “slush fund”.
City Press can reveal the Hawks were investigating damaging claims that almost R200 000 for renovations to Mthethwa’s house in KwaMbonambi, northern KwaZulu-Natal, was paid out of the “slush fund” when the probe was shut down.
The Hawks also uncovered that Mthethwa drove a luxury Mercedes-Benz SUV, bought by crime intelligence, during a period of 15 months.
This is contained in a top-secret police report that was handed to acting police chief Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi last month, which names Mthethwa in the Hawks’ investigation into the plundering of the R200 million secret service account.
Mthethwa denies benefiting from the secret fund or driving the vehicle, saying Mercedes-Benz is not his “favourite brand”.
City Press spoke 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.
Misuse of state vehicles
Last month we revealed that crime intelligence boss Lieutenant General Richard 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.
Mthethwa was instrumental in the reinstatement of Mdluli and the finance head of crime intelligence, Major General Solly Lazarus, against the will of Mkhwanazi, who was contemplating his future in the police.
Mkhwanazi declined to be interviewed this week, but police sources said he was still “fuming” about Mthethwa’s interference.
Questions are now being asked about the minister’s motives for doing so. Sources told City Press they were convinced Mthethwa was desperately trying to “save his own skin”.
“That’s why he’s pushing this thing (the investigation into crime intelligence) down. He knows (that he is implicated),” said one police source.
Another said: “The squashing of the Hawks investigation is coming straight from the minister. If investigations continue, he will also be exposed as a beneficiary of crime intelligence.”
According to the police report, extensive “security renovations” were done at the private residence of Mthethwa in KwaMbonambi after Mdluli conducted a risk assessment in May 2010.
This week City Press visited Mthethwa’s house in an area known as KwaMthethwa on the outskirts of KwaMbonambi. The area falls under the tribal authority. Local residents said it was Mthethwa’s family home.
The house is located along a dirt road – far from the closest neighbours, who live over a hill.
Paid out of secret fund
The huge white wall is made from what seems to be concrete blocks and is plastered, but not painted. It surrounds a main house and several smaller buildings.
Between 14 September 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.
The report notes it is not clear whether Mthethwa knew where the money came from.
These payments, approved by Lazarus, were illegal as the secret fund can only be utilised to finance secret covert crime intelligence operations.
Security renovations at the homes of Cabinet ministers are done by the department of public works and have to be declared to Parliament.
The report to Mkhwanazi also reveals that Hawks investigators found evidence that shows Mthethwa used a Mercedes-Benz SUV, bought in 2010 in Umhlanga with crime intelligence secret funds, between March 2010 and June last year.
The same vehicle was used by Lazarus and was later driven to Cape Town for Mdluli’s use whenever he visited the city. In total, Mthethwa, Mdluli and Lazarus drove 5 600km in the car.
The report describes how investigators from the Hawks found copies of the claims relating to Mthethwa’s renovations in the safe of a senior crime intelligence officer.
The officer claimed Lazarus ordered him to make copies of the claim after an apparent fallout between suspended police chief Bheki Cele and Mthethwa.
The Mail & Guardian reported this week that the Inspector General of Intelligence, Advocate Faith Radebe, recommended on March 6 that Mdluli’s suspension be lifted, but not Lazarus’s.
Mthethwa told Talk Radio 702 this week that Radebe ordered the police to reinstate both.
During an interview with host Redi Tlhabi, Mthethwa barely referred to Radebe’s subsequent letter to the police, dated 19 March, which recommended that Mdluli should face criminal charges for fraud.