Mpumalanga’s top cops in firing line

2012-05-05 16:21

‘It’s very tense at the top. Those who aren’t in good books are facing the music’

One of Mpumalanga’s most senior police officers has found herself on the wrong side of the law after being charged with fraud.

Major-General Thembi Hadebe, a deputy provincial commissioner, is accused of claiming accommodation and travel expenses for a private trip. She appeared in the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court last week and was released on R1 000 bail.

Hadebe is not the only senior officer facing travel claim fraud charges.

Brigadiers Moses Bolton (head of strategic management) and Vusi Mdakane (former Nelspruit group commanding officer) have been arrested for similar offences. Mdakane has since been dismissed.

But sources within the provincial police force believe there may be another motive behind Hadebe’s charges.

A number of well-placed sources say Hadebe incurred the wrath of provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Thulani Ntombela when she questioned several developments in the Jimmy Mohlala murder case.

Mohlala is the former Mbombela speaker who was murdered in 2009 after exposing widespread alleged tender corruption around Nelspruit’s Fifa World Cup stadium.

Two police constables, Finish Mkhabela and Dumisani Mhlanga, were among the five suspects arrested and charged with the murder.

Police sources have informed City Press that Hadebe became unpopular with Ntombela after she advised that Mkhabela and Mhlanga be charged internally for misconduct until further evidence had been gathered against them.

City Press has a copy of a letter Hadebe wrote to her senior Ntombela questioning the disciplinary process.

In it, she wrote: “The statements (of witnesses) were perused and it was found that the information (or evidence) is insufficient to prove the case as well as to decide on possible suspension of these members (Mkhabela and Mhlanga).
“This office requests that the departmental trial for these members be delayed to collect more evidence, for example, ballistic results.”
But commissioner Ntombela pressed on, and fired the two constables in March last year.

In January, charges against the two officers and the three co-accused were withdrawn in the Nelspruit Circuit Court.

Hadebe declined to comment further, only saying: “I’m not someone for the limelight.

I’ll fight whatever charges I’m facing in court.”

Sources have informed City Press that morale among the province’s senior officers was incredibly low and that cops spent a great deal of time digging for dirt on their colleagues.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi said it was wrong to suggest that Hadebe was targeted for opposing Ntombela.

“That is misrepresentation of facts and it remains to be seen why (you, the reporter) quote only this particular incident, whereas there are a number of decisions where Ntombela used his discretion despite the recommendations of his deputies,” he said.

Hlathi said police officers who believed they were being unfairly targeted should exhaust the grievance procedures within the SA Police Service. “The low morale among senior officers cannot be confirmed nor denied as there is no measure or survey conducted to determine this.

“It must be reiterated that in all the cases where these officers are charged, Ntombela is not the complainant.”

Hlathi added that all the senior officers were arrested for submitting fraudulent claims, but declined to disclose details of their disciplinary hearings.

Bolton, he said, has been suspended while an internal investigation against Hadebe was still under way.

“It’s very tense at the top right now. Those who are not in Ntombela’s good books are facing the music,” said a well-placed source.

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