From the news desk

Secret plot to oust Mbaks

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Police Minister Fikile Mbalula is embroiled in a war against rogue police spies who have threatened his life, as well as the lives of his family.

City Press is in possession of a report of a registered undercover operation called Project Wonder, which involves rogue agents and officers from the police’s crime intelligence unit, Hawks and the SA Police Service (SAPS).

The report details illegal cellphone taps on five ministers, how evidence was to be planted against Mbalula in an attempt to get him fired, and a plan to use “young women” to “trap” him and his senior staff.

City Press has independently verified a number of aspects of the report with sources in the police ministry and crime intelligence, as well as other members of the security cluster.

The threats are being taken so seriously that Mbalula’s key staff and their immediate families are being guarded around the clock by officers of the police’s VIP protection unit. They have also been forced to move around frequently, not sleeping at the same location for more than two days at a time.

City Press has learnt that Mbalula and his staff were convinced of the veracity of the report because it detailed meetings they themselves had attended.

Yesterday, Mbalula confirmed having received the report.

“We can’t allow rogue [behaviour] in the police and they are trying to divert us from the task at hand. We are focused on the job that we have been assigned by the president and the ANC,” he said.

Mbalula said the report should be investigated by the inspector-general of intelligence.

“I am appalled by such acts and we must not be deviated from what we do,” he said.

“I was aware of these things these past weeks; there has been a lot of activity … I know that I have been followed and so on … but I can assure you that we will put a stop to it.”

His adviser, Bo Mbindwane, said: “I know of these threats … these intelligence dossiers are being analysed accordingly.”

Mbalula appears to be facing a backlash from officers loyal to three suspended police bosses. He has been involved in attempts to have former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli removed from the police’s payroll after six years on suspension, during which he has earned R8.3 million. He also removed Berning Ntlemeza from his position as head of the Hawks after the Pretoria High Court ruled that his appointment was “irrational and unlawful”. In addition, Mbalula prevented him from returning to work earlier this year after he had vowed to defy Mbalula and do so.

Mbalula also played a role in the suspension of former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane after an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate into allegations of corruption against him.

Other reasons advanced in the report as to why the rogue officers wanted to get rid of Mbalula – which City Press has independently verified – include that he:

. Refused to approve promotion to the rank of full colonel and above for non-statutory forces – that is, former members of apartheid-era self-defence units and members of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association – saying there was no money for the pay increases that accompany the promotions;

. Resisted recommending the permanent appointment of current acting national police commissioner, Lieutenant General Lesetja Mothiba, as head of police. He allegedly threatened to have Mothiba disciplined for not acting against Mdluli on the grounds that continuing to pay him amounted to fruitless and wasteful expenditure;

. Was instrumental in reversing the promotion of several top police officers – whose names are known to City Press – who had criminal records; and

. Questioned the purchase of radios for the police’s presidential protection unit – which allegedly do not work – as well as 300 personal computers without following proper procurement processes.

The report also states that Project Wonder is being funded using money from the crime intelligence unit’s secret service account, known as the slush fund. It also states that its operations are based at two safe houses, one in Benoni and the other in Cape Town.

The report further states that the intelligence agents involved in Project Wonder have a “grabber” – a device able to intercept, record and track cellphone calls and messages – at their disposal. This was confirmed by a source close to the police ministry.

The report also states that rogue agents have been illegally bugging Cabinet ministers: “…crime intelligence unauthorised on five Cabinet ministers. The minister is seeking answers.” City Press was unable to verify who these Cabinet ministers are.

“Mbalula ordered debugging of his office and key staff operatives from [KwaZulu-Natal were] utilised,” the report reads.

This was confirmed by senior police sources.

The report also refers to video footage of a senior crime intelligence officer, linked to Project Wonder, which shows him firing an AK-47 assault rifle at a shooting range. This footage, the report states, was “sent to Mbalula’s senior staff as a potential threat”.

Asked about the video, Mbalula laughed and said it also showed the officer was “missing and missing” his target.

“Yes, I received the video – it went viral – and it made me laugh,” he said.

The crime intelligence officer concerned has a string of charges against him and at least one firearm-related conviction, and should not – by law – be carrying a firearm.

The report also implicates rogue agents in a recent burglary at the National Prosecuting Authority’s offices in Pretoria. This was confirmed by senior police sources.

The report also contains wild and fantastical plans to get “young women to trap the minister and key advisers in the ministry”.

In a emailed response yesterday, national police spokesperson Major General Sally de Beer declined to comment on the “so-called Project Wonder”.

However, she said Mothiba rejected any suggestion of complicity contained in the report as “spurious, baseless and utterly untruthful”.

“Lieutenant General Mothiba is a commissioned officer in the SAPS with over 35 years of loyal and faithful service. As from his date of appointment in 1982, he has been prepared to serve anywhere in the country as the dictates of the service demand.

“When appointed as the acting national commissioner, as announced by Minister Mbalula, he was well aware that this was an interim arrangement and he committed himself to acting in this post with dedication and integrity. He will continue to do so until the appointment of a national commissioner.”

De Beer said Mothiba reported to Mbalula and “interacts with him regularly”.

Phahlane denied he was part of any conspiracy against Mbalula, saying he had never seen the report and that the allegations were “outrageous”.

“This is the weirdest allegation I have ever received. I don’t even know some of the people you are mentioning [that are allegedly] part of the plot,” he said.

Ntlemeza said yesterday that the report and its contents were “rubbish” and that he had never seen it.

Mdluli could not be reached for comment.

[Source: News24]
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