Police ministry's chief of staff a convicted fraudster

2016-08-30 13:00
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Johannesburg – The man tasked with running Nathi Nhleko's police ministry is a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in 2002.

Leon Abednigo Mbangwa was found guilty of fraud and jailed for four years on December 13, 2002, police spokesperson Sergeant Ann Poortman has confirmed to News24.

Despite this, he managed to secure a senior position as chief of staff in the police ministry.

Mbangwa admitted to having spent some time in Pretoria Central Prison for fraud. He was released in August 2003.

"I was released following talks between home affairs, my family and the MKMVA (Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association)."

According to his LinkedIn profile, he took up the post of chief of staff in March 2016, following a spell in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and the provincial health department.

Mbangwa said his conviction related to an issue regarding his place of birth and his South African citizenship. He said, according to his ID, he had been born in South Africa, when he had in fact been born in Zimbabwe.

"That was the issue, but I was not using a fake South African ID," he told News24.

Mbangwa said he received security clearance for the job that granted him access to some of the country's top secrets and resources.

"I am always cleared when they do their vetting."

Minister's prerogative

Nhleko had asked for clearance for Mbangwa through the Independent Police Investigative Directorate [Ipid], instead of the SAPS itself. Both the Ipid and Nhleko's spokesperson Musa Zondi said this was not unusual.

"Mr Mbangwa joined the police ministry on a transfer from KwaZulu-Natal legislature. So this was not a brand new appointment, and the presumption is that the person being transferred would have been cleared," Zondi said in an email to News24.

"In this particular case, Mr Mbangwa declared the conviction on [the] citizenship matter to both the national [police] commissioner and the minister. They were satisfied. Remember that there is no law that says you can't be hired because of a conviction. The requirement is that you need to declare, which happened in this case.

"On this basis, the minister did not see a problem with acquiring the services of Mr Mbangwa, who has extensive experience in government," Zondi said.

Ipid spokesperson Robbie Raburabu told News24 that it was the minister's prerogative to ask for any entity under him to facilitate security clearance.
"The vetting unit only facilitates the process. The State Security Agency (SSA) is responsible for the final clearance. I can confirm that that Ipid facilitated the clearance of the chief of staff."

The SSA refused to divulge the outcome of the process as it was an issue between the person vetted and the ministry.

'Who said a person with a conviction cannot be employed?'

Mbangwa first told News24 that those making claims about him were trying to assassinate his character and that his record had always been clean. He said those who hired him were aware of his conviction and sentence.

"Who said a person with a conviction cannot be employed? You are wasting my time. Show me any law that says a person can't be employed. I have declared and everyone knows about it," he told News24, before ending the phone call.

While Zondi explained that the minister could use either the Ipid or SAPS for clearance checks, he refused to answer questions about why the department would hire a convicted criminal.

"He wanted to call you himself. Whatever he told you is the comment," Zondi told News24.

Mbwangwa initially claimed his record had been expunged, but later admitted that he was working on getting it erased.

According to a report in the Natal Witness, he had been involved in a battle for South African citizenship with home affairs since 2005. Authorities however refused to accept the results of a DNA test used to try prove that he was the biological son of a South African woman.

His attorney, Michelle Naidoo, said he and his family were being prejudiced by the delay in finalising the matter.

No evidence had been provided to back up subsequent claims that there was something irregular about the test, or that Mabel Mbangwa was not his mother, she said.

Read more on:    police  |  nathi nhleko  |  fraud

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