Key 'Project Wonder' allegation apparently fabricated

2017-08-28 12:45
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula addresses the media. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula addresses the media. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)

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Johannesburg - At least one allegation contained in an "intelligence" document that details a supposed plot to oust Police Minister Fikile Mbalula appears to be a fabrication.

A document circulated among journalists last week which allegedly stems from crime intelligence circles, describes how a covert intelligence plot dubbed "Project Wonder" was brought into life in order to target Mbalula and some of his staff, as well as to spy on unnamed Cabinet ministers.

However, News24 has been able to determine that a key element in the document is an apparent fabrication.

READ: Secret plot to oust Mbaks

The report claims that the budget for "Project Wonder" was doubled after the Hawks raided the Gupta-linked Vrede dairy farm in the Free State several weeks ago, but according to all indications the supposed raid never happened.

"Dairy Farm Secret Raid by Hawks - likely arrest of Minister Zwane. Mbalula and advisors went quite [sic] on day. No activity. Project Wonder budget doubled by [acting national police commissioner Lesetja] Mothiba upon hearing of raid. Raid date circa two weeks ago. Mbalula - no media alert. Could be attempt to lessen threats against him. Gupta link," the so-called intelligence document reads.

Raid claim denied

News24 contacted Ikhraam Osman, the CEO of the Free State Development Corporation (FDC), who said that the Hawks never performed a "secret raid" on the farm.

The controversial government-funded dairy project, located outside of the town of Vrede, was taken over by the FDC after it emerged that Estina, a Gupta-linked company, was paid in excess of R180m by the Free State department of agriculture and rural development despite failing to get the project off the ground.

- #GuptaLeaks: How millions milked from Free State government paid for Sun City wedding

"I have spoken to our farm managers on the ground. They say the Hawks have never been to the farm," Osman told News24.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi also denied that the specialised unit raided the farm.

"We can confirm that we are investigating the Free State farm allegations. The allegations of a raid are foreign to us. Lastly, we are not in a position to break our own internal process by revealing progress thereof," said Mulaudzi.

The "intelligence" document appears to be broadly sympathetic to Mbalula, who is painted as a victim of a covert plot because of his supposed opposition to corrupt elements within the SAPS and Crime Intelligence structures.

However, Mbalula himself has recently been implicated in allegedly dodgy financial transactions.

In April, News24 revealed that it was alleged in court papers that Mbalula had received a payment of R1m from murdered North West businessman Wandile Bozwana.

READ: Did murdered tender baron pay R1m for Mbalula's Las Vegas trip through Tbo Touch?

Intelligence plot

The money was allegedly paid to well-known radio personality Thabo "TBO Touch" Molefe, a friend of Mbalula, who allegedly acted as a proxy for the minister, according to the court papers.

At the time, Mbalula's then spokesperson Esethu Hasane said the court claims were "incorrect and absolute hogwash". Hasane said the report formed part of Media24's "unrelenting [and] unrepentant campaign to vilify the minister".

But the "intelligence" report on "Project Wonder" now seems to suggest that the information on the payment from Bozwana formed part of the supposed intelligence plot against Mbalula.

"Minister seen as unsupportive to Mothiba being permenant NatCom [national police commissioner]. Mothiba… controlling secret funds deployed to remove Mbalula. A fake link with "Vusi" the accused [in the Bozwana murder] and TBO Touch," reads the report.

Vuyo Mhaga, Mbalula's spokesperson, did not respond to queries over the alleged plot against Mbalula. He referred News24 to the Hawks with regards to the supposed raid on the dairy farm.

* Do you have information for our investigative journalists? Send an email to tips@24.com

Read more on:    fikile mbalula  |  johannesburg  |  espionage  |  politics

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