Top lawman’s lawless past

2013-10-26 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL’S most powerful civilian crime-fighter is today unmasked as a convicted criminal.

Desmond Bafana Mngonyama, aka Desmond Mntambo, is the province’s Community Policing Forum chairperson. He reports directly to the provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, and sits in high-level, sensitive, crime-fighting strategy meetings.

But he has been convicted — and even sentenced to jail time and lashes — for crimes including culpable homicide, theft, robbery, and possession of drugs.

However, Mntambo, a prominent figure from Richmond, a hotbed of political infighting, denies all the charges.

He claims they are “damn lies” created to tarnish his name and fabricated as part of a “conspiracy … emanating from Richmond”.

Weekend Witness has, however, obtained documents detailing his criminal past and has separately corroborated the information with an independent law enforcement source.

In the face of Weekend Witness’s information, Safety and Security MEC Willies Mchunu has launched an immediate investigation into Mntambo’s appointment.

His appointment to the chairmanship raises serious questions about the security profiling of civilians who are privy to sensitive crime intelligence.

Mntambo was appointed by Ngobeni in October 2012.

The National Guideline for Community Police Forums and Boards Code of Conduct 26.2 states that “any member who has been convicted of any crime, may be expelled from the forum”.

Confronted yesterday at a glitzy prize-giving ceremony where Mntambo shared the stage with Premier Senzo Mchunu and Ngobeni, Mntambo insisted he could prove his innocence.

“I can show you a letter that proves to you that there are people trying to create a conspiracy against me. It is a lie [created by] a politician in Richmond. This is character assassination. These charges are not mine,” said Mntambo.

He said he would speak further later yesterday but when approached again he then said he had been advised not to talk to the media. He referred questions to police communications officials.

The documents show Mntambo’s crimes date back to 1979 and continued through the 1980s.

Besides those crimes for which he was convicted, there are another eight cases where Mntambo was vindicated or the cases withdrawn.

These include falsely pretending to be a member of the police force, cheque fraud, culpable homicide, housebreaking, robbery and theft.

A source who sits on two Community Policing Forums said he believed once a person was elected to an executive position they had to be profiled by police. “When I served as an executive member, I was profiled and it was imperative to show that I had no criminal record. How this has managed to slip under the radar is beyond me,” said the source.

Mntambo’s real names are also a source of mystery. In official records his name has been cited as Desmond Bafana Mngonyama, Bafana Mngonyama, Mntambo Mkhize and Desmond Mntambo Mngonyama.

Weekend Witness is in possession of official records that document the crimes. All of the names in the records have the same identity number.

A Government Gazette entry shows that Desmond Bafana Mngonyama (with the same identity number as Mntambo and as that reflected in the official records) had his name officially changed to Desmond Mntambo in July this year.

Mchunu said he had ordered Ngobeni, and the head of the Department of Community Safety and Liaison, Ronnie Bhengu, to investigate.

“It has been alleged that Mr Mntambo has criminal records, that he was currently under investigation for allegations of fraud and that he was also allegedly interfering with the police investigations into the on-going violence in Richmond town, outside Pietermaritzburg,” said Mchunu.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker, speaking for Ngobeni, said Mntambo was elected by the CPF provincial board and the IEC conducted the election.

He said there was no provision in the CPF constitution for members to be subjected to police security clearance.

He said Mntambo was not paid for his role.

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