Saturday, August 7, 2010
Senior Policeman's startling admission: Arrest was political
Aug 8, 2010 12:00 AM | By STEPHAN HOFSTATTER and CHARLES MOLELE
There is mounting evidence that political pressure lay behind the arrest this week of Sunday Times journalist Mzilikazi wa Africa, despite furious denials from police top brass.
COME WITH US: Sunday Times reporter Mzilikazi wa Afrika is led away after being arrested at Avusa House by the Hawks Picture: SIMON MATHEBULA
'I was asked whether I was involved in discrediting senior ANC office bearers in Mpumalanga'
Political Notebook #35: wa Afrika - glad to be home
Freed journo and co-accused speak out
Wa Afrika released just a few hours before trial
The premier and the faxed letter
The hit list sage
Hawks' own feathers might be ruffled
Journalist's harrowing account
Another reporter is threatened
Behind the scenes of arrest
Cele's dodgy R500m deal likely to face two probes
Wa Afrika: The truth has set me free
Wa Afrika freed on R5 000 bail
Wa Afrika quizzed about unpublished story
Judge orders Wa Afrika freed
A senior police official close to the case admitted yesterday that police were feeling the heat from ANC politicians to crack down on wa Afrika, because of his reporting.
"Ja - it's political pressure," he told the Sunday Times.
Yesterday, Mabutho Sithole, a spokesman for Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza, confirmed the premier had laid the initial complaint, at the Kabokweni police station in Nelspruit, which culminated in wa Afrika's arrest.
Mabuza, a controversial figure in Mpumalanga, has been the subject of various articles in the Sunday Times and other publications.
The complaint was sparked by a letter faxed to the Sunday Times, in which Mabuza supposedly states his intention to resign as premier. Mabuza insisted the letter was a forgery and that he had no intention of resigning.
"He (Mabuza) complained to the police here at Kabokweni after we got a copy of the letter and received information that there were people in possession of a letter bearing his name and signature," said Sithole.
Wa Afrika was arrested at 11.15am on Wednesday outside the Sunday Times building in Rosebank, Johannesburg.
Minutes earlier Sunday Times lawyer Renier Spies had been negotiating with Kabokweni station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Mabasa at Rosebank police station not to arrest wa Afrika at his office, but rather to allow the journalist to hand himself over at the station.
"In the meantime (Mabasa) contacted a 'general' whose further particulars are unknown to me, via his cellphone," said Spies. "According to (Mabasa), the general he spoke to was on his way to the station and wanted to join us."
Minutes later, several police vehicles with sirens blaring pulled up alongside wa Afrika outside the Sunday Times building while he was walking to the police station. Police bundled him into an unmarked vehicle and drove off at high speed.
At 7pm on Thursday night, the Sunday Times went to the High Court in Pretoria to bring an urgent application for wa Afrika's release. Just before 10pm, acting Judge Johan Kruger ordered his immediate release following an agreement with the state. Wa Afrika was released at 10:30pm on Thursday night.
He appeared in Nelspruit Regional Court on Friday on charges of fraud, forgery and uttering. He was released on bail of R5000 and is scheduled to appear again on November 8.
Spies said he was convinced there was "political pressure on (Mabasa) to effect an arrest".
This is borne out by the line of questioning police adopted when interrogating wa Afrika and fellow suspect Victor Mlimi, a senior provincial government official, at the Nelspruit office of the police's provincial Organised Crime Unit on Thursday.
"I was asked whether I was directly or indirectly involved in discrediting senior ANC office bearers in Mpumalanga," said wa Afrika. "That made me wonder whether the police were investigating a criminal or a political case.
"They also wanted to know who are the big politicians I'm working with behind the scenes. This made me conclude the police were sent by politicians to harass and intimidate me."
Mlimi's lawyer, Daniel Mabunda, said his client was questioned for two hours about the ANC's provincial leadership succession battles, and which political camp he supported.
"I was present when my client was asked, Are you destroying the image and integrity of the ANC in Mpumalanga? I advised my client not to answer that question. It struck me that this has more to do with politics than a criminal case."
The day before the arrest, police chief General Bheki Cele had referred to wa Afrika as a "shady journalist", in response to an article he co-authored about the police chief's involvement in clinching a R500-million lease agreement, without going to tender, with billionaire businessman Roux Shabangu.
The vigour police used to pursue wa Afrika also raised eyebrows. The case was opened at Kabokweni police station on Monday and wa Afrika was arrested two days later.
Police have yet to arrest anyone connected to the deaths of Mbombela speaker Jimmy Mohlala and provincial arts and culture spokesman Sammy Mpatlanyane - both of whom appeared on an alleged hit list that emerged last year .
Mohlala was gunned down outside his house by three masked men in January 2009 in Kanyamazane township outside Nelspruit. Mpatlanyane was shot in his Nelspruit home in January 2010.
"Those murders are still under investigation," Hawks spokesman Musa Zondi told the Sunday Times yesterday.
The visible lack of progress in these cases contrasts with the swift action taken against wa Afrika, one of the journalists who exposed the alleged hit list.
Cele's spokesman, Nonkululeko Mbatha, told the Sunday Times yesterday "the semblance and impressions you have are not factual". "Police have instituted a probe which is ongoing and appealed to members of the public who might have information ... to come to the fore."
Asked about the negative impression created by the police's heavy-handed action against wa Afrika, she said: "I cannot undo that impression but the fact of the matter is no one is immune from investigation of what is suspicious of criminal nature. Lastly, insinuations about a directive issued by the general (Cele) to apprehend or intimidate the journalist are incorrect and a figment of imagination."
Mabuza's spokesman also denied exerting any political pressure on police, or that the arrest was an attempt to intimidate wa Afrika and derail his investigative reporting on the murders.
Comments by Sonny
This is a cut and dried case of State Harassment and gross Intimidation!!
Have we reached a new level of policing in SA?
The oath ...."To Protect and Serve!".....
Cele's dodgy R500m deal likely to face two probes
Aug 8, 2010 12:00 AM | By STEPHAN HOFSTATTER, MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA and BRENDAN BOYLE
A R500-million deal to move police top brass to a building owned by a politically connected billionaire - without a public tender process - is likely to face two probes.
Senior Policeman's startling admission: Arrest was political
Bheki Cele's R500m police rental deal
First Letter from the Office of the Commissioner (pdf)
Second Letter from the Office of the Commissioner (pdf)
Letter from the Attorney (pdf)
The Public Protector's office this week confirmed it was investigating the lease, while the corruption-busting Special Investigating Unit has launched one of its "biggest ever" probes into irregular government leases worth billions of rands.
The deal - exposed by the Sunday Times last week - will involve moving police headquarters to a building owned by Roux Shabangu at a cost to taxpayers of over R500-million, without following normal tender procedures; it is expected to form part of the SIU probe.
The SIU would neither confirm nor deny this, saying it was probing possible irregularities in "numerous leases negotiated by DPW (the Department of Public Works) ... some of which involve significant amounts".
The SIU is an elite unit that fights corruption through forensic investigations and follows up with litigation to retrieve public funds.
Both Shabangu and police chief General Bheki Cele, who signed off on the proposed financial terms of the deal, sent threatening letters to the Sunday Times this week in an apparent bid to gag the newspaper from publishing further details of the dodgy deal - which has raised eyebrows not only due to the lack of a tender, but also because the SAPS signed a 10-year lease with Shabangu while it still has a 10-year lease on its existing head office, Wachthuis.
The SIU said the investigation into government leases was sparked by a request from the minister of public works, Geoff Doidge, to look into "serious concerns he had regarding procurement processes in the department", a spokesman said on Friday.
"The Department of Public Works investigation will be one of the biggest ever launched by the SIU," the spokesman said.
This week Public Protector Thuli Madonsela launched an investigation into the SAPS lease, responding to a complaint lodged by the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa.
"I hope to be in a position to issue my report at the beginning of September," she said in a letter sent to the institute on Tuesday.
Shabangu was not involved in any "underhanded dealings" in clinching the deal, his lawyer, Natalie Visagie, said on Friday. "My client had no interaction or contact with Cele at all. The allegation that Cele signed the lease is completely false.
"The building was sold to my client and it was a condition of the sale that my client would obtain SAPS as a lessee."
Although Shabangu initially denied his political connections, his lawyer said that "President (Jacob) Zuma is a friend of long standing of my client", but insisted "to the best of my client's knowledge, Zuma did not bring to bear any political influence (on awarding the lease)".
Cele, meanwhile, has insisted that the Department of Public Works had exonerated him of any wrongdoing by pointing out that the lease did not need to go out to tender because it was a negotiated contract.
He also said it was "misleading" and "incorrect" to say he had clinched the deal with Shabangu. Cele said he simply signed a "needs assessment" because the SAPS headquarters "was not big enough for it to carry out its administrative functions".
"With that his role as the accounting officer of the SAPS ended," his office said. "The Department of Public Works then took over the process."
But documents in the Sunday Times's possession show that on June 1 Cele signed off on the proposed financial terms of the lease.
The documents, while not the final lease issued, consist of an offer document headed "Agreement of Lease" containing Shabangu's detailed proposed rentals, and a document signed off by Cele entitled "Actual cost calculations: leasing of properties to accommodate government departments", largely reflecting the same numbers.
(View the documents online at www.timeslive.co.za)
This week neither public works nor the SAPS could adequately explain why the R500-million deal did not go out to public tender - as required by Treasury rules.
The rules require all government contracts over R500000 to go through a competitive bid process.
If a service is needed really urgently, departments are allowed to negotiate directly with a contractor. But only if they've given good reasons, which must be as a result of unforeseen circumstances, including "a catastrophic event".
A government official familiar with tender compliance rules, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said contracts were typically negotiated directly only after an open bidding process had failed to produce a suitable candidate.
Accommodation crunches caused by bad planning would result in short-term emergency solutions - not 10-year leases, he said.
"On what basis is the relocation of an entire building urgent? You don't have to move 500 people quickly. Where is the case for urgency?"
Attempts to get answers from public works proved fruitless. "I don't want to talk to the Sunday Times ever again," shouted spokesman Lucky Nchalibane, referring all queries to special projects deputy director-general Mandla Mabuza.
But Mabuza failed to explain why the department decided not to follow normal tender procedures.
This week Cele's office also refused to supply reasons why the move was deemed so urgent it warranted dispensing with normal tender processes, or documents to support his claims, including the needs assessment he claimed was the last document he signed.
"After an appropriate apology, retraction and correction are published, we will consider whether to make available to you the information that has been requested," said a Major-General Julius Molefe. "In the circumstances you leave General Cele with no option but to seek proper redress through other means provided by the law."
Visagie also threatened to hold the Sunday Times liable for any damages suffered by Shabangu, if another deal he was planning to clinch with the SAPS - for renting a building in Durban - fell through because of negative publicity.
Comments by Sonny
Could this be one of the reasons for We Afrika's dramatic arrest?
Shabangu should be arrested and interrogated by the Hawks!
United we stand: Auckland Park declaration
Aug 8, 2010 12:00 AM | By Sunday Times Comment
We, the title editors of South Africa's major publications and members of the South African National Editors' Forum, are deeply concerned about attempts to curtail freedom of expression and the free flow of information in our country.
Free speech and access to information are the lifeblood of our democracy and we are at the very heart of the struggle for freedom. Human dignity is indivisible from freedom of speech.
We vigorously oppose the restrictive clauses in the Protection of Information Bill and the proposed Media Appeals Tribunal.
We appeal to the South African Government and the ruling ANC to abide by the founding principles of our democracy, and to abandon these proposed measures.
We commit ourselves to join hands with all South Africans who value their freedom to defend these basic rights which are enshrined in our constitution.
1.Ainsley Moos, Volksblad
2.Alan Dunn, Daily News
3.Alide Dasnois, Cape Times
4.Andrew Koopman, Son & Sondag Son
5.Andrew Trench, Daily Dispatch
6.Angela Quintal, The Mercury
7.Barney Mthombothi, Financial Mail
8.Bongani Keswa, Sowetan
9.Bun Booyens, Die Burger
10.Charles Mogale, Sunday World
11.Chiara Carter, Weekend Argus
12.Chris Whitfield, Editor-in-Chief, Independent Newspapers Cape
13.Clyde Bawden, The Independent on Saturday
14.Dirk Lotriet, Sondag
15.Ferial Haffajee, City Press
16.Fikile Ntsikelelo Moya, The Witness
17.Jeremy McCabe, Weekend Post
18.Gasant Abarder, Cape Argus
19.Heather Robertson, The Herald
20.Jovial Rantao, The Star
21.Liza Albrecht, Rapport
22.Makhudu Sefara, The Sunday
23.Martin Williams, The Citizen
24.Moegsien Williams, The Star
25.Mondli Makhanya, Editor-in-Chief, Avusa
26.Nic Dawes, Mail & Guardian
27.Peet Kruger, Editor-in-Chief, Media24
28.Peter Bruce, Business Day
29.Philani Mgwaba, Sunday Tribune
30.Phylicia Oppelt, The Times
31.Ray Hartley, Sunday Times
32.Thabo Leshilo, Avusa Public Editor
33.Themba Khumalo, Daily Sun
34.Tim du Plessis, Beeld
35.Thulani Mbatha, Isolezwe
36.Zingisa Mkhuma, Pretoria News
37. Sonny Cox, Freelance
........."NEVER AGAIN WILL BE ABUSE APARTHEID LAWS IN SOUTH AFRICA!".....
N Mandela 1994
Or Constitution is the next national inheritance to be attacked by the ANC!