Crime Intelligence 'paid off at least three journalists' to sink detrimental story: witness
The state capture inquiry has heard that some journalists were allegedly on the payroll of Crime Intelligence and money was forked out of the division's secret service account to either have stories published or retracted.
This was according to Crime Intelligence officer Col Dhanajaya Naidoo, who told the inquiry on Monday that he had knowledge of at least three incidents where journalists were paid or benefited in some way from the secret service account.
Naidoo is in witness protection after turning whistleblower in 2011 and penning various affidavits to the Hawks which outlined the looting of the account. He was testifying in camera from a remote location.
He said it was around 2009 or 2010, when Richard Mdluli headed Crime Intelligence, that Mdluli told him he was meeting a journalist. The journalist, according to what Mdluli apparently told Naidoo, had information on Crime Intelligence that "would have been detrimental if it was published".
Naidoo said about R20,000 was used from the secret service account to pay off the journalist (whose name he did not know).
The second incident he knew of took place in former Crime Intelligence finance officer Solomon Lazarus's office. Naidoo could not remember when it was. He said Lazarus was in his office with another officer when he walked in on their conversation.
"They were having a conversation and they seemed to be unsettled. FM09 [the officer whose name was withheld from the testimony] said to Lazarus that Marshal [Mulangi Mphego] needs an answer as a journalist is waiting … and Lazarus said 'pay'."
The third incident involved Tiso Blackstar journalist Ranjeni Munusamy.
"The third instance I know of is a female journalist Ranjeni Munusamy. In this instance, I have more detail because I was personally involved.
"During 2008, I was called by Mphego to his office. He said he has this contact, her name is Jenny, and she is having problems with her vehicle and I must make contact with her and see how we can help her. I went to [Solomon Lazarus’s] office and explained what was required of me," he said.
"I can’t recall if Lazarus explained to me who this person was but I can confirm it was indeed Munusamy who I met. I met her on two or three occasions. Lazarus told me I should take the vehicle to New World Motors. It is a service provider to Company X [a company used as a front for Crime Intelligence]."
He said he met Munusamy at an Engen garage not far from her house.
"She handed over the keys and I took the car to New World Motors. The tyres on that specific vehicle was replaced, it was serviced, the radio was faulty, and one of the seats on the car needed some attention," he said.
He said he met Munusamy again when he returned her vehicle.
Then, a week or two later, Mphego is said to have ordered him to take the vehicle back to New World Motors to have run-flat tyres installed. Naidoo described the vehicle as a "silver BMW convertible".
Soon afterwards, according to Naidoo, Mphego called him to say the vehicle was not starting.
"We got the vehicle towed back to the workshop … This was the only occasion where I’ve been to her [Munusamy's] house. I’m not sure exactly what was wrong but I know the vehicle was fixed," he said.
"When I returned the vehicle that was the last time I met Munusamy as far as the car goes. I met her once subsequent to that which I will explain later. Forty-thousand rand was paid from the secret service account for repairs to this vehicle. This was now for all the work done."
Tiso Blackstar Group said it noted the extremely serious allegations against Munusamy.
"Munusamy is currently engaged as an associate editor with Tiso Blackstar. We adhere to the doctrine of presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the principles of natural justice that include hearing both sides of the story," the company said in a statement.
"However, we have granted Munusamy special leave considering the gravity of these allegations. The editor of the Sunday Times, Bongani Siqoko, commenced with internal investigations ...
"The company also notes that Munusamy was not engaged by Tiso Blackstar Group or any of its titles or/and companies during the period covered by these allegations, and the company was unaware of any investigation involving Munusamy at the time she was engaged as an independent contractor.
"The company will make a final decision on this matter following the conclusion of its own internal investigations, taking into consideration the company’s interests, its policies and Munusamy’s rights.
• The commission of inquiry previously referred to Dhanajaya Naidoo as a former colonel. On Monday he clarified at the hearing that he was still a Crime Intelligence officer.