EXCLUSIVE: Leaked photo makes Mbalula crime intelligence matter murkier

2017-11-06 14:41

Cape Town – A secret photograph of Police Minister Fikile Mbalula posing with a group of men, who some sources insist are crime intelligence operatives allocated to specifically work for him, has surfaced.

However, Mbalula's spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga told News24 on Monday that while the men in the photograph were indeed linked to police, they did not work for Mbalula.

Mhaga said exposing the identities of the men could put their lives at risk given the nature of their work.

He questioned the motive behind the leak.

Another source, with ties to policing, also questioned the reason behind the leak, saying there was nothing untoward about the image, which this source believed was being used in an apparent smear campaign.

Leaked photo

In the photograph five men stand to one side of a smiling Mbalula, while three stand on the other.


(Leaked: News24 has blurred the faces of the men to not reveal their identities)

A source who claims to have close knowledge of the matter said the group of men were crime intelligence officers from Cape Town and travelled everywhere with Mbalula.

The source said this in itself was not above board as Mbalula should not have such a close relationship with crime intelligence officers.

In addition, the source said that as undercover operatives the men in the photograph should never have posed for a photograph as this contravened protocol and could blow their cover.

The source insisted the group of men were working for Mbalula. This was denied by others.

Seizing control of crime intelligence

These claims were made by the source three days before an exclusive report was aired on Eyewitness News on Monday in which it was stated that Mbalula had effectively seized control of crime intelligence.

The Eyewitness News report, which was based on minutes of meetings and confidential information notes, also said Mbalula had sidelined acting National Police Commissioner Lesetja Mothiba.

It said Mbalula believed crime intelligence officers were running a campaign to discredit him.

The source told News24 that Mbalula's fears that crime intelligence operatives were trying to discredit him were true and said they sometimes provided misleading information to him.

Mhaga told News24 on Monday that the office would release a statement on allegations that Mbalula had taken control of crime intelligence.

He told News24 the photograph of Mbalula and the men had been taken at the scene of a police operation.

Mhaga mentioned in which area the photograph was apparently taken - but the source denied what Mhaga said and named a different province as to where the image was taken.

Mistrust

The leaking of the photograph has highlighted internal battles rattling the police.

Through looking into two key investigations - the smuggling of police firearms to criminals, a problem at the heart of South Africa’s biggest ever illicit firearm smuggling investigation, as well as underworld activities - News24 has established there is deep mistrust between Hawks, police and crime intelligence officers.

This could be detrimental as information being gathered by the units as part of investigations is possibly not being shared.

Crime intelligence has recently been dogged by back-to-back scandals.

In August, the crime intelligence unit's acting head Major-General Pat Mokushane was fired. He had lacked security clearance. 

Problems

Sources, with close knowledge of problems hampering the crime intelligence unit, have said issues included covert operations being registered when no such operations existed - this was to access funds.

The system involving informants, they said, also needed an overhaul as it was being abused, with certain individuals using informants to gather, and peddle information, for personal gain.

Previously, several sources, with close links to crime intelligence, told News24 that the unit was in disarray. 

They feared high-level probes are being intentionally derailed by colleagues to protect, among others, politicians who were involved.

They also suspected that targets of their intelligence gathering may actually be protected by other highly influential state figures and that, therefore, their work is futile.

READ: SAPS shake-up: Mbalula to crack down on 'top-heavy' police, crime intelligence overspending

In October Mbalula called the crime intelligence unit "non responsive". 

He had directed the crime intelligence unit to set up 26 directives, with an action plan, to be developed along with the police ministry, in order "to refocus" it.

He had not elaborated on the directives.

Mbalula instructed that there was a direct relationship between the police ministry and crime intelligence "to monitor and evaluate activities of the operatives, which include potential misuse of power and resources".

Mbalula also lashed out at crime intelligence in September.

He warned the unit that he was going after rogue elements within it, and that they were not immune to the law.

READ: Mbalula warns crime intelligence over its own 'criminal' elements

Crime intelligence has recently also been the focus of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

IPID, according to a letter to police dated September 1 and seen by News24, alleged that half a million rand from the crime intelligence secret slush fund was awarded to a blinds installation company that does not actually exist. 

This had happened around February 2013.

IPID, in its letter, asked that Major-General Obed Nemutanzhela, who heads the slush fund, be suspended as he is seen to be hampering an investigation into the possible theft of state funds.

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Read more on:    fikile mbalula  |  crime

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