13/02/2017 19:35 SAST | Updated 20/02/2017 11:31 SAST

Inside Top Cop's Fight-Back Campaign Against IPID

Police chief Phahlane sets a specialised police team to investigate the team investigating him.

Gallo Images / Thapelo Maphakela
Members of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) raid the home of South African Police Service Acting National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane, as part of a corruption investigation on January 19, 2017 in Johannesburg. Phahlane is accused of taking kickbacks to secure tenders for a company during his tenure as head of the police forensics division.

Acting police chief Khomotso Phahlane has intensified his fight-back campaign against the police watchdog by allegedly roping in controversial senior policeman, Major General Ntebo "Jan" Mabula, to lead the retaliation.

It now appears Phahlane has gone as far as getting a specialised police team to investigate those who have been investigating him.

Mabula, who himself has been investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), is the team leader. Mabula has a history of being involved in politically motivated arrests and was a close ally of former police boss Jackie Selebi and suspended crime intelligence head Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli.

Phahlane has been at the centre of an IPID investigation into defeating the ends of justice and alleged corruption, which is looking into how he paid for an R8 million home in the luxurious Sable Hills Waterfront Estate.

The acting commissioner has come out with guns blazing over the inclusion of forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan and his assistant attorney Sarah-Jane Trent in the investigation.

Last week he filed an application before the North Gauteng High Court against IPID, O'Sullivan, Trent and magistrate JR Tsatsi, to stop O'Sullivan and Trent from taking part in the investigation and to overturn a search warrant which saw IPID enter his home and remove an R80,000 sound system.

But it appears that the acting commissioner has gone one step further than a court application. Trent was arrested on Friday afternoon for allegedly "impersonating an IPID officer". She was driven around for hours before being taken to Kameeldrift police station.

At first police denied there had been a raid on O'Sullivan's office or that there had been an arrest. Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told numerous media outlets that they had not initiated a raid on O'Sullivan's office, while police spokesperson Brigadier Sally de Beer told EWN she was not aware of an arrest.

The denials stopped when AfriForum brought an urgent application to the North Gauteng High Court on Sunday afternoon to have Trent released from custody. IPID head Robert McBride attended the court appearance, giving support to Trent.

Mdluli associate

Mabula travelled from Klerksdorp and headed up the arrest of Trent and, according to sources close to the investigation, it has been discovered that he and a team from the North West have been tasked with looking into those investigating Phahlane. There is an allegation that witnesses in the corruption case have been approached by this team.

Mabula, a previous head of the Hawks in the North West, is a name that has appeared frequently in the media over the past few years.

In 2013, City Press reported that Mabula was a long-term associate of suspended crime intelligence head Mdluli, under whom he served as a detective in Potchefstroom, North West, when Mdluli headed up the Organised Crime Unit there.

In 2008, under Mdluli's instruction, Mabula was involved in the arrest and failed prosecution of Gerrie Nel by Nomgcobo Jiba. The day after Nel's arrest, then police commissioner Jackie Selebi launched an urgent application to try to halt the Scorpions' investigation.

Mabula also led the Hawks investigation into the so-called Cato Manor Death Squad. On Jiba's instructions, he arrested KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Major General Johan Booysens for racketeering — charges that were later declared unlawful by a court.

Mabula is still under investigation by IPID for the alleged murder of a suspect while in police custody.

City Press reported that Mabula was being investigated for the death, by suffocation, of police informer Solomon Nengwane.

R100m heist

Nengwane was allegedly involved in stealing R14 million of R100 million in recovered heist money from a police station in Benoni. His death was allegedly at the hands of a task team of detectives under the command of Mabula, who was then a colonel.

The heist in 2006 involved about R100 million stolen from the OR Tambo International Airport cargo terminal. Four of the suspects in the case were killed shortly after the heist.

Prosecutor Peter Smith told the court it seemed that the police were "knocking off" witnesses to "cover their own tracks" in the case.

A postmortem report revealed that Nengwane was tortured with "electricity shock" and a "tube was used to choke him".

News24 understands that this week McBride will present never-before-seen evidence to Parliament's portfolio committee on police for their investigation into Phahlane.

When asked if Phahlane was fighting back against the IPID investigation by opening cases against O'Sullivan and Trent, which Mabula has been tasked with investigating, De Beer said the enquiry "relates to an ongoing investigation which involves a matter before the court" and so the police would not be able to respond.

"Please note that police investigations are court directed," De Beer said.