Cop war snares journos

2012-05-18 00:00

EXPLOSIVE claims that police spy boss Richard Mdluli’s crime intelligence unit bribed journalists as part of the police’s internal wars were met with shock and disbelief yesterday.

The Sunday Times reacted angrily to the claims that its award-winning investigations team was used to place Hawks boss Anwa Dramat and the police team investigating Mdluli under suspicion.

The allegation is contained in a detailed 23-page report by investigator Colonel Kobus Roelofse dated March 2 this year. It was addressed to his anti-corruption task team commander. The report forms part of court documents in the bid by the organisation Freedom Under Law (FUL) to force Mdluli’s suspension and the reinstating of murder and corruption charges against him.

The report details how top police officers, as well as prosecution officials, tried to scupper the criminal investigation into Mdluli.

Roelofse refers to a witness who, on October 10 last year, described a visit to CI finance chief Major Solly Lazarus’s home, where he “heard them discussing the placement of a newspaper article relating to Lieutenant-General Dramat and Major-General [Shadrack] Sibiya”.

“He stated that Major-General Lazarus wanted to use sources within the media [journalists paid by CI] to write a story in order to take the focus away from there. According to the member this is a strategy employed to cast suspicion on those they perceived to be a threat.

“The article was published in the Sunday Times on 23 October 2011 … Mdluli had made representations to the NPA earlier that month and uses the above-mentioned article to cast suspicion on Lieutenant-General Dramat and the investigating team,” said Roelofse,

The newspaper article revolved around how senior police officers reporting to Dramat and Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petero were guilty of illegal renditions to Zimbabwe.

Earlier this month, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told Parliament that the renditions were to be investigated by the civilian police secretariat — a move that raised eyebrows among some analysts. So too, Mthethwa’s announcement that Mdluli would be shifted sideways in the police, pending an investigation by chief state attorney Enver Daniels into Mdluli’s claims that Dramat, Petros and others were conspiring against him.

The failure to act against Mdluli — who faces serious allegations of nepotism, corruption and even murder — resulted in FUL’s high court application this week to force Mdluli’s suspension and the reinstatement of criminal charges against him.

It is not the first time that unnamed journalists have been fingered in the Mdluli saga.

Similar allegations were made in a secret 13-page police report to Intelligence Inspector-General Faith Radebe in November last year. That report was compiled by senior crime intelligence majors-general Chris de Kock and Mark Hankel.

They detailed Mdluli’s alleged reign of plunder at the unit, and as reported by sister newspaper City Press in March this year, two journalists (who were not named) were allegedly paid from CI’s slush fund.

One journalist allegedly received R100 000 to write a positive story about the police and the other R50 000 not to publish a story about a senior police officer.

Yesterday, Sunday Times editor Ray Hartley said the allegations against the newspaper’s reporters were unsubstantiated and an attack on the newspaper’s integrity.

“The [rendition] article under question was not written on the prompting of a single ‘source’ in the police. It was the product of a lengthy investigation which included information supplied by several police officers, evidence of police entry ledgers, death certificates and the sworn affidavits of several witnesses.

“The story may or may not have been used by one or other faction in the police to further their ends in the internal dirty war that is under way in the service. That is not something which the Sunday Times has any control over.”

Hartley urged Roelofse and acting national police commisisioner Nhlanhla Mkwanazi to furnish the newspaper with any evidence “they have in their possession that any journalist is in the pay of the police or has, in any way, acted in breach of the press code of conduct”.

“If this is shown to be the case, the Sunday Times will take the harshest action against such persons. However, if such evidence is not produced, this smear on the integrity of our journalists cannot be allowed to stand. If there is no evidence, the acting commissioner of police must withdraw this outrageous allegation from the public domain,” said Hartley.

In its reaction, the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) too asked Mhkwanazi for more information, labelling the allegations as “extremely serious”.

“We have asked General Mkhwanazi to provide us with the relevant evidence and any further relevant background so that we can arrive at a view on this matter which is informed by hard facts,” said Sanef secretary Gaye Davis.

In his reaction, national press club chairman Yusuf Abramjee said allegations that journalists were paid by Crime Intelligence was “very worrying” and “very serious” and that “authorities need to get to the bottom of them as a matter of urgency”.

The DA’s Dianne Kohler Barnard also asked for an urgent investigation and said the public deserved an explanation.

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