Nhleko’s R30m blessing
Police minister implicated for signing off millions of rands for work done by his love interest – and for going all out to reinstate charges against Ipid head Robert McBride
Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s girlfriend, Nomcebo Mthembu, has allegedly scored more than R30 million for providing services which police ministry officials claim they could have received for free. Two documents detailing cost breakdowns, as well as a series of emails, have been obtained by City Press from officials in the police ministry. They reveal Mthembu’s nongovernmental organisation (NGO) charged more than R30.8 million for six months’ work, starting in April last year.
One, a “mass community implementation plan” to produce “185 000 peer educators”, totalled R28.09 million.
The other job, aimed at “producing 6 000 peer educators”, totalled R2.74 million.
The organisation, called Indoni, organised workshops and cultural events to combat xenophobia, following an outbreak of violence in KwaZuluNatal and Gauteng last year.
On its website, Indoni states that it sets up programmes aimed at bringing about cultural awareness and social cohesion through addressing social ills.
In one of the recently sent emails, a ministry official – whose identity City Press is withholding – claims that Nhleko’s We Are One Humanity campaign against xenophobia was a money-spinner.
The email goes on to state that Nhleko did not put the campaign out to tender, despite misgivings expressed by ministry officials. “Here the minister is working with Nomcebo and her team on the We Are Africa proposal on April 17 2015, before it was submitted for consideration. He held a press briefing [on] Sunday, April 19, launching the campaign and announcing them [Indoni] as the service providers before the matter went out to tender,” the official says.
The emails also claim that ministry staff resisted Nhleko’s appointment of Indoni and were forced to pay Mthembu for the launch, because the event took place and Indoni had printed material for the occasion – after getting “direct approval from the minister”.
In the emails, the staff also question why the ministry had to hold such an event, given that one had already been proposed by the department of arts and culture: “Even the choice of theme – We are Africa – had to be changed to We are One Humanity. And they wanted us to pay millions for it,” one email reads.
Another official wrote: “We got some NGOs to do it for under R200 000, and others do to it for free.”
Another email refers to Nhleko’s alleged resolve to give Mthembu the contract. “I even recorded the meeting where the minister tried to force the head of events, the acting chief financial officer ... to give her [Mthembu] the contract. Pity I deleted it. Eish.”
Nhleko’s spokesperson, Sandile Ngidi, said yesterday: “The minister finds the allegations City Press is making quite serious and disturbing. Minister Nhleko is committed to a clean, transparent and accountable administration, and believes that nothing untoward has happened.
“Allegations that the [secretariat] paid Indoni R30 million are untrue. There is no funding contract between the ministry and Indoni. Instead, there is a memorandum of understanding between the two entities, which was signed before Nhleko was appointed to head the police ministry.”
Ngidi added that the memorandum “does not translate into a funding arrangement, nor a retainer agreement of any sort”, but “simply establishes an arm’s-length working relationship between the ministry and Indoni that is project based”. “It is untrue that the Civilian Secretariat for Police, whose annual budget is R111 million, paid Dr Mthembu or Indoni R30 million.” Mthembu declined to comment. However, a breakdown of costs Indoni sent to the ministry – and which several ministry officials confirmed were paid – reveal the following, among other items, that Indoni charged for: R1.32 million for “photographers and videographers”; R321 000 for “paint and stickers”; R1.2 million for “creative materials” at R500 a child; and R1.83 million on “programme administration costs, including human resources”. Indoni’s website lists the police secretariat and the department of arts and culture among its partners, alongside other public entities.
Ngidi refused to comment on whether Mthembu was Nhleko’s wife or girlfriend, saying: “This is none of your business, Sir.”
Asked if Mthembu used her relationship with the minister to secure the funding, he said: “Absolutely not.”
In response to whether police ministry staff were forced to use Indoni’s services, Ngidi said: “We are not aware of this allegation and do not believe it is true.”
The memorandum of understanding between the ministry and Indoni expires in May 2017.
“The minister finds the idea that there is conflict of interest to be misplaced,” Ngidi added.
“Indoni has been paid R410 000 in the current financial year. This money was not paid in cash to Indoni or Dr Mthembu, but directly covered the accommodation and travel costs for young girls who participated in Indoni’s empowerment and character-building boot camps.
“At the core of this exercise is the campaign to encourage young people to be aware of the dangers of benefitting from stolen goods.”
Meanwhile, Nhleko is fighting a battle on another front – with Robert McBride. On Thursday, he again asked Parliament to establish an inquiry into the newly reinstated head of police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
“Once this process has commenced, I will be in a position to suspend him for the alleged misconduct, and the prosecutor will be in a position to reinstate the criminal charges against him,” Nhleko said in a letter to Speaker Baleka Mbete, adding that he wanted the process to start as “soon as possible”.
But documents and audio recordings in City Press’ possession reveal that Nhleko is pulling out all the stops to find any dirt on McBride – including getting the Hawks to reopen a case involving the murder of an alleged cash heist gangster while McBride was the head of Ekurhuleni’s metro police 10 years ago.
An affidavit, written by a former metro policeman, whose name is known to City Press, reveals that on November 7, three Hawks officers – namely Brigadier Nyameka Xaba, who heads the Hawks’ crimes against the state unit; Lieutenant Colonel Manie Fourie; and a Colonel Vredenburg from the Limpopo Hawks – approached several former Ekurhuleni metro police officers searching for incriminating information.
The affidavit is backed up by recorded phone calls between Hawks officers and possible witnesses.
One of the cases for which the Hawks intend to charge McBride is that of Marco Singh, an alleged cash-in-transit heist gangster, airport robber and police crime intelligence operative.
He was killed in a shoot-out with the Ekurhuleni metro police and his case was recently reopened, allegedly on Nhleko’s instruction.
The Hawks have also reopened old firearms-related cases in which McBride was a suspect.
A witness, who is now in hiding, wrote in his affidavit that Xaba approached him and told him “they want to deal with [McBride] once and for all”, and that three other officers had already made statements.
In a recording obtained by City Press, a Hawks detective is heard saying the priority crimes unit wanted to obtain a few more statements before they could arrest McBride.
The witness testified: “I asked him who gave instruction to reopen this case. He told me that the Hawks got instructions from the minister of police.”
Ngidi, however, denied the allegation. “The suggestion is nonsensical and untrue.
“Nevertheless, the minister would prefer that the McBride matter be left to the parliamentary process since the Speaker placed it on Parliament’s announcements, tablings and committee report, published on Friday.”
McBride said yesterday: “I am aware of every move they make against me, right from the time it is first discussed. On every issue. But I am unperturbed. The truth cannot be changed by smoke and mirrors.”
FORMER IPID HEAD FACES FRAUD CHARGE
In yet another development, Nhleko has transferred former acting Ipid chief Israel Kgamanyane to head financial asset forfeiture investigations at the Hawks, after McBride resumed his job as Ipid head in October.
Kgamanyane is now facing fraud charges for allegedly irregularly appointing Boniwe Sotyu, daughter of Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu, as deputy director of investigations at Ipid’s Free State office.
City Press reported last year that Sotyu was appointed despite not having the advertised qualifications and experience. She got the job ahead of two experienced investigators, one of whom had 22 years’ experience.
Nhleko wrote to McBride on Wednesday, informing him of Kgamanyane’s transfer to the Hawks.
In September, Kgamanyane wrote a glowing letter of recommendation to acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, supporting Boniwe Sotyu’s application for a transfer to work as a police clerk at the Bloemfontein Police Station.
Ngidi said Nhleko acted within his powers to transfer Kgamanyane. “In terms of section 14 of the Public Service Act, only the executive authority [the minister] in a department can transfer staff within the department or to another department. In the case of Kgamanyane, the minister received the application and he considered it in terms of this section,” he said.
“In the case of the deputy minister’s daughter, Boniwe Sotyu, no transfer has been effected yet.
“What we can confirm is that Ms Sotyu has indeed applied for a transfer on grounds of ill health. Since her health can be worsened by too much travelling, as the Ipid job demands, she has applied for an administrative position at the SA Police Service in Bloemfontein, in line with the Public Service Act.”
Sotyu wrote to McBride to seek his permission for a transfer, but he has not yet responded.
“In his capacity as head of department, the executive director of Ipid reserves the right to approve or disapprove the transfer, but may not unreasonably disapprove it,” said Ngidi.
I am aware of every move they make against me .... But I am unperturbed. The truth cannot be changed by smoke and mirrors ROBERT McBRIDE
LUCRATIVE PARTNERSHIP Police Minister Nathi Nhleko with Indoni founder Nomcebo Mthembu