Zondo commission: Ex-police minister was unaware his chief of staff was a convicted fraudster

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Former police minister Nathi Nhleko at the state capture commission.
Former police minister Nathi Nhleko at the state capture commission.
Sharon Seretlo, Gallo Images
  • Former police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko hired a convicted criminal as his chief of staff. 
  • Nhleko told the Zondo commission at the time of the appointment he was not aware of Leon Mbangwa's criminal record as it was a lateral movement.
  • Mbangwa, who was convicted for fraud, was working at the KZN legislature before he was hired as chief of staff in the police ministry.

Former police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, who appointed a convicted felon as his chief of staff, said he was not aware of the conviction when he hired Leon Mbangwa.

Nhleko was testifying before the state capture commission on Monday after he had been implicated by several people, including the former head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Robert McBride.

In April 2019, McBride told the commission Nhleko should explain why he hired a convicted criminal as his chief of staff while he was minister of police.

"Why would a minister of police hire a convicted criminal who is not South African and is still flashing his illegal documents?" McBride asked at the time.

Nhleko moved to clarify the appointment, testifying he was not aware of Mbangwa's criminal record at the time he made the appointment.

READ | Police ministry's chief of staff a convicted fraudster

The former minister said he had found Mbangwa through a recruitment exercise he conducted when his chief of staff left for another position in the police ministry.

Mbangwa, who at the time was working in a senior position at the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) legislature, was highly qualified, holding several qualifications, including a Master's degree in management, Nhleko added.

He said Mbangwa had also been employed in the public service sector for no less than 20 years and previously held positions at the Electoral Commission of South Africa, Department of Justice and KZN Department of Health.

"Given his history and level of qualification, I was satisfied that he was right for the position."

Nhleko added because it was a lateral movement and Mbangwa was already in the government system, he was not aware or made aware of the criminal record as would have been the case if it was a fresh and direct employment.

"There was no way given the lateral transfer that I would know about the criminal record."

When Nhleko was made aware it, following an interview with Power FM, he confronted Mbangwa who admitted he had been sentenced and served time for fraud.

READ | #StateCaptureInquiry: Former police minister must explain why he hired a convicted criminal - McBride

He said Mbangwa had always declared his criminal record and completed his Z204 form for security clearance.

On the issue of Mbangwa's nationality, Nhleko said it was "absurd and lunacy at best for anyone to suggest that an African person is a foreigner on African soil".

He added Mbangwa had taken steps to rectify his citizenship after he was released from prison. He was not deported and was allegedly given a letter to apply for citizenship.

The former minister said the case ended up in court, where Mbangwa proved his South African citizenship through DNA tests, with a surviving sibling in the country.

News24 previously reported Mbangwa, who is a Zimbabwean national, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment in 2002 for a false identification document.

The inquiry continues.

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