It took 22 years, but Richard Mdluli has gone from crime intelligence boss to jailbird
Mdluli is not backing down though, as he says he will petition the Supreme Court of Appeal
Former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli would have spent his first night in jail on Tuesday, more than two decades after kidnapping and assaulting a man whose only sin was to marry the former high-flying policeman’s wife.
Mdluli and his co-accused Mthembeni Mthunzi were effectively sentenced to five years in jail each in the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday. The pair was last year found guilty of the 1998 kidnapping, assault and intimidation of Oupa Ramogibe, who had married Mdluli’s customary law wife Tshidi Buthelezi.
First, Mdluli and Mthunzi assaulted Ramogibe’s friend, Alice Manana, forcing her to tell them where the couple was. Then they tracked down Ramogibe and Buthelezi in Orange Farm and assaulted Ramogibe, who was murdered a year later, in 1999. Mdluli was also charged for his murder, but those charges were later dropped. Ramogibe’s killer was never arrested and Buthelezi died a few years later of natural causes.
Judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng said he had considered all types of sentences to be imposed on the two, including a noncustodial sentence, a custodial sentence and victim compensation and a fine. But ultimately, he believed jailtime was the most suitable punishment in this case.
“We are dealing with two senior policemen who abrogated to themselves powers which police have. These powers were abused to such an extent that the only appropriate sentence in the circumstances is a custodial sentence,” Mokgoatlheng said.
Mokgoatlheng sentenced the two men to three years each for two counts of kidnapping, another one-year jail term each for assault and two years for two counts of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm. Some of the sentences will run concurrently.
“Effectively you are sentenced to five years in prison,” said the judge, who described their crimes as “baffling”.
During the trial, prosecutor Zaais van Zyl said the assault on Manana was severe: “Mthunzi is a big man. When the assault happened, he was in his prime. He beat her for 30 to 35 minutes.”
He said when Manana woke up, she discovered bleeding from her ear.
Finally the chickens are coming home to roost for Richard Mdluli.Glynnis Breytenbach
“Far from being an insignificant assault, it was a serious assault perpetrated by a big man on a woman. The assault on Alice should carry heavy weight,” said the prosecutor.
Directly after the sentencing, the convicted pair applied for leave to appeal, which was denied.
‘I will apply for bail’
Before Mdluli left the court to start serving his sentence, he indicated he would petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
“I have every right to go to any court. We will petition the SCA,” Mdluli said, adding he would also launch a bail bid.
Satisfying to see justice done
Reacting to the judgment, the DA said it was an indictment on the criminal justice system that Mdluli was allowed to escape liability for so long.
“That being said, the prosecution in this matter has done a sterling job in presenting a case that relied on evidence that was so old,” said DA shadow minister of justice and correctional services Glynnis Breytenbach.
She said Mdluli nearly got away with his criminal abuse of power, and it was satisfying to see justice finally being done.
Breytenbach said Mdluli still faced charges in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crime Court for alleged fraud and theft relating to the abuse of the crime intelligence slush fund.
“Finally the chickens are coming home to roost for Richard Mdluli, who rather pathetically claims to be too old and vulnerable to serve a term of imprisonment.
“This is not a courtesy he extended to his victims, and it is time for him to get his just deserts,” Breytenbach said.
Praise for Freedom Under Law
She said the successful prosecution demonstrated the important role civil society could play in demanding accountability.
Breytenbach said Freedom Under Law, the main driver of the pressure applied in a series of legal challenges, must be acknowledged for the enormous role it played in forcing the National Prosecuting Authority to do its job.
“Without this pressure, Mdluli would have continued to act with impunity,” Breytenbach said.
She said the direct custodial sentence imposed on Mdluli and Mthunzi confirmed courts would not tolerate the lawlessness that pervaded society.
Freedom Under Law said the sentencing was an important vindication of the rule of law because one of the country’s most senior police officers had finally been held accountable for some of his crimes.
Mdluli’s conviction and sentencing followed legal challenges over several years against decisions that would have kept Mdluli in his crucial post.