Former police spy chief Richard
Mdluli is refusing to go down without a fight, as more details of his
political cosseting emerge. He was on Thursday preparing to file papers in the Johannesburg Labour Court to challenge his suspension.
Mdluli was suspended for the second time last Saturday in what appears to be a dramatic tug-of-war between acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and Mdluli’s political backers, notably Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa. Police spokesperson Brigadier Lindela Mashigo told the Mail & Guardian: “There was an indication from General Mdluli’s lawyers, but as far as we know there hasn’t been any filing as yet.”
Mdluli’s lawyer, Ike Motloung, declined to answer questions, saying he was busy with an urgent matter. However, the M&G has established that advocate William Mokhare was scheduled to petition the labour court on the Mdluli matter. It is understood that Mdluli’s lawyers will argue that both the notice of intention to suspend – signed about two weeks ago – and the suspension itself are invalid. One of the arguments expected is that Mdluli cannot be suspended while on sick leave.
In mid-May, as indications emerged that Mkhwanazi was intent on acting against him, Mdluli stayed away from work, citing “emotional stress”. Since then, police management has struggled to serve the suspension notice and had to resort to sending the latter by email to Mdluli’s lawyer. Earlier in May, Mdluli appeared relaxed and gave what appeared to be officially sanctioned media interviews around the time that Mthethwa announced his temporary transfer out of crime intelligence, pending the report of a ministerial task team.
Mdluli was first suspended last year following his arrest in connection with the murder of his former lover’s husband, Oupa Ramogibe, in 1999. He was also slapped with fraud charges for allegedly gaining personal benefit from discounts obtained on the purchase of cars through the secret services account. Following the controversial withdrawal of both charges, Mdluli was reinstated in March after a stormy meeting between Mkhwanazi, Mthethwa and intelligence inspector general Faith Radebe.
The reinstatement provoked a storm of controversy and Mthethwa announced on May 9 that Mdluli would be temporarily moved while a task team investigated claims made in a letter Mdluli wrote to President Jacob Zuma, alleging he was the victim of a plot by senior police officers.
The high-level task team is led by chief state law adviser Enver Daniels who, it is understood, has previously provided advice about the tussle over crime intelligence. Its members include defence intelligence chief Abel Shilubane, Stan Noosi, the acting head of the domestic arm of the State Security Agency, and police legal services head Julius Molefe.
The ministerial inquiry appears to be a bid to buy time, judging by its terms of reference, which are to “collate the information, including the letter, as well as consult with all the affected people mentioned in the letter, provide in-depth analysis and thereafter compile a report”.
Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged of the extraordinary mobilisation to protect Mdluli. The Star on Thursday reported details of a letter allegedly sent by Cecil Burgess, chair of the joint standing committee on intelligence, calling for police intelligence co-ordinator Mark Hankel to be removed as the liaison between crime intelligence and the Hawks team investigating Mdluli. The letter was dated November 2, just two days after Hankel had briefed the inspector general of intelligence on alleged abuses uncovered by the Hawks.
Burgess was travelling overseas this week and could not be reached for comment. It is not clear in what capacity Burgess purportedly issued the demand to remove Hankel.
The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.