Hawks smell a rat: Computers with sensitive anti-corruption data stolen

06 July 2017 - 06:10 By GRAEME HOSKEN
Image: iStock Images

Computers and hard drives stolen from the Hawks' national headquarters in Pretoria contained sensitive information about anti-corruption investigations involving the directorate's disgraced former head, Berning Ntlemeza.

The Times has learned that the hardware stolen on Tuesday night stored information about what is thought to have been the irregular appointment of numerous people to senior and administrative positions in the crime-fighting unit.

The appointments were apparently made by Ntlemeza, who is fighting his dismissal by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula in the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Bloemfontein.

Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that an internal investigation into appointments within the organisation was under way.

"[The investigation] was ordered by acting Hawks boss Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata."

A Hawks source said the computers were stolen from the offices of employees who deal with logistics and human resources.

"It wasn't only the computers taken. It was also the hard drives. There is information there that is highly sensitive about the appointments of certain people."

He said that police anti-corruption officers were investigating certain of these appointments.

"Those that were appointed were not the ones who scored the highest when it came to the employment tests. They were well below on the rankings, yet somehow they landed up [as] colonels and above," said the officer, who has insight into the appointments.

The officer, who cannot be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said other staff who were being investigated were administration clerks.

"They deal with sensitive information. Just because they are an admin clerk does not mean that their appointments must not be above board, especially given the information they work with."

Mulaudzi said the information stolen was highly confidential.

"It contains people's employment records, among other things."

He said it was "worrisome" when such a breach occurred, "especially given the types of computers stolen and the offices from which they were taken.

"To get to those specific offices requires access cards. You don't just open the door and walk in."

Mulaudzi said the anti-corruption investigation was initiated recently when allegations were brought to Matakata's attention.

To get to those specific offices requires access cards. You don't just open the door and walk in.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi

But he denied that the allegations of irregularity in appointments were in respect of senior posts.

"The appointments were to administrative posts."

Mulaudzi said the anti-corruption investigation was being handled by the police's intervention management unit, which was not part of the Hawks.

He said no case dockets were stolen: "They are kept in a safe place."

Another Hawks source said a "large number" of appointments was under scrutiny.

"There is something strange about this break-in. There was no sign of forced entry. The area that was broken into is highly secure.

"The thieves went for specific computers. They walked past numerous offices leaving behind valuable equipment and went to certain rooms where these computers were kept.

"If that does not speak to an inside job I don't know what does."

The break-in follows several security breaches at state institutions recently, including a burglary at the office of the chief justice earlier this year.

- Additional reporting by Ernest Mabuza