Police's top brass 'tearing each other apart in public'
NATIONAL police crime intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli has embarked on an all-out war aimed at eliminating rivals opposed to his planned ascension to national police commissioner.
The offensive, allegedly involving the Presidency, the Police Ministry and the national police commissioners' office, has seen Mdluli fingering his bosses, suspended police commissioner General Bheki Cele, Hawks head Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat, national crime detection and operational services head Lieutenant-General Shadrack Lebeya and Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros as co-conspirators in a campaign to discredit him.
In the past month Mdluli, who is a key figure in the inquest into murder of his former lover's boyfriend, has narrowly escaped criminal prosecution for murder, abuse of state resources, defeating the ends of justice, fraud and corruption.
The escape saw Mdluli recently reinstated to the powerful position of crime intelligence chief.
Since his reinstatement, Mdluli has been gaining more muscle by ordering the restructuring of the unit, including the incorporation of the VIP unit.
Yesterday it emerged that Mdluli, who the DA has requested to be scrutinised by Parliament, was now in charge of approving any application for interception of communication.
In response to a Parliamentary question from the DA, SAPS revealed Mdluli was the only one with signing powers to bug telephone calls.
In a strongly worded letter written to President Jacob Zuma, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and acting police chief General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, Mdluli last week claimed the four senior police officers were openly campaigning to remove him.
The letter has created major upheaval within the SAPS with Mkhwanazi recently meeting Zuma to discuss the saga fearing the outbreak of widespread panic "as senior officers tear each other apart in war".
Petros yesterday blasted the letter and its author, demanding an immediate investigation.
"I will not have it. I will not be accused of such things. I do not know where these allegations come from and what they are based on," he said.
Petros said he had too much to do fighting crime in Gauteng to become involved in conspiracies.
"I am not going to be distracted by this. You need time and my hands are full. When I am wearing my uniform I have to stick to the facts. Only when I take my uniform off can I have my own opinion.
"When the time is right I will respond further."
Attempts to get comment from Cele, Dramat and Lebeya proved fruitless.
Mkhwanazi said he was approached about the letter "in passing".
"I was never given the letter officially. At the time I had no idea about Mdluli's suspension or the reasons. The letter said the suspension was not based on fact, but on allegations from a senior group of officers allegedly trying to get rid of him.
"My response was that the letter needed to be submitted through proper channels, like the departmental hearing [intended to be held into Mdluli's conduct]. Unfortunately the hearing never happened," Mkhwanazi said.
"I told him I did not know the merits of the case. I did not want to take it. What was I going to do with it? People will say anything to protect themselves and I cannot say whether these allegations are factual," he said.
Mkhwanazi said Petros asked him about the letter last week, saying he wanted to take action to clear his name. "I told him he is free to do whatever he wants to do. This letter's public airing will create problems.
"I already have a huge challenge of getting all my generals to work together in the common cause of fighting crime - now they are tearing each other apart in public.
"The legal action by Petros could see other generals doing the same thing. You can imagine what this will do to our image.
"You don't talk about this in public because it creates panic. Writing about this will cause problems which will be regretted," Mkhwanazi said.
He declined to discuss his meeting with Zuma.