olice management allegedly delayed the interview process for a key cluster post to allow KwaZulu-Natal provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni’s husband – a police officer who was sent on a work trip to China – to be interviewed for the job he ultimately secured.
City Press has learnt from three senior police officers that the interview panel for the post of Pietermaritzburg SA Police Service (SAPS) cluster head – for which then Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni had applied – was rescheduled from December 15 last year to a later date to allow him a chance to be interviewed, because he was only due back in the country on December 18.
A senior SAPS crime intelligence source alleged this week that the timing of the interview had been manipulated to ensure that Lucas Ngobeni was interviewed for the job, which has given him control of 13 police stations in the KwaZulu-Natal capital.
“How can a wife nominate her husband for a trip when she is his superior? How can a panel be reconvened just to accommodate one person?” he asked.
Another provincial SAPS source told City Press that, while there had been an extension, it had only been granted after Mmamonnye Ngobeni personally requested it. The source said certain criteria for properly filling the post, including the shortlisting of a female candidate, had not been met.
“There were irregularities throughout the process. The process was a farce,” the source alleged.
However, SAPS management has denied any wrongdoing on the part of the commissioner, who withdrew from the panel adjudicating applications for the post of running the province’s most influential station cluster.
Mmamonnye Ngobeni’s spokesperson, Colonel Jay Naicker, said she chose not to participate in the panel because her husband had been one of the applicants.
But according to the crime intelligence source, Pietermaritzburg police had expected that the acting head of Mountain Rise Police Station, Brigadier Francis Bantham, would be appointed because of her knowledge of local policing. Lucas Ngobeni was appointed to head the Pietermaritzburg cluster with effect from March 1 this year and was promoted to major general. He had previously been commander of the Phoenix cluster north of Durban and had been in the provincial police’s supply chain management unit.
Naicker said there had been nothing unusual in the one-week extension given to Lucas Ngobeni, which had also been given to other applicants.
In a memo to the Phoenix cluster in October last year, Mmamonnye Ngobeni wrote that her husband had been nominated to attend the community policing seminary in Shandong province, China, from November 25 to December 16 last year and referred all queries to provincial human resources.
Naicker said Lucas Ngobeni had been chosen by the national police leadership to go on the trip to China – and not by his wife. He said Lucas Ngobeni had gone on the trip with officers from other provinces and there had been nothing untoward about his wife writing a letter confirming that he had been nominated to attend. “There was no preferential treatment given to him and the [interview] panel did not include General Ngobeni,” Naicker said. “There were other applicants who were given extensions as well.” Lucas Ngobeni’s reputation, however, has taken something of a knock recently after he became embroiled in a controversy sparked by the failed corruption trial of controversial Umhlanga businessperson Thoshan Panday, who allegedly settled a R30 000 bill for Lucas Ngobeni’s lavish birthday party in 2010. In 2011, Panday was charged with allegedly defrauding the SAPS of more than R60 million for accommodation during the 2010 Fifa World Cup and for a subsequent alleged bribery attempt in which he and his coaccused – SAPS supply chain official Colonel Navin Madhoe – tried to pay off provincial Hawks head Major General Johan Booysen with R1.3 million.
That case was thrown out of court after evidence of illegal phone tapping and other unlawful surveillance by crime intelligence operatives working with the Hawks on the case was presented to court.
Lucas Ngobeni’s appointment comes on the heels of his wife’s five-year contract extension, which was made despite her being at the centre of a series of allegations of interference in Panday’s prosecution and the subsequent case against Booysen.
Booysen was arrested shortly after Panday’s discharge on hit squad charges stemming from killings committed by the Cato Manor serious and violent crimes unit, but those charges were withdrawn after a court ruled that the racketeering certificate against him by then acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba had been unlawful.
Jiba is now facing charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice for ignoring evidence contained in police dockets that proved Booysen’s innocence.
Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni
Major General Lucas Ngobeni