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Hawks boss suspended over Mcebisi Jonas pressure

Zinhle Mnonopi out in the cold after evidence at state capture inquiry

02 September 2018 - 00:06 By QAANITAH HUNTER and BONGANI FUZILE

The head of the Hawks anticorruption unit has been suspended following allegations she tried to force Mcebisi Jonas to sign a false statement to halt a police investigation into the Guptas.
Maj Gen Zinhle Mnonopi's suspension on Thursday came as the state capture inquiry led by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo heard this week of a pattern in the way the Hawks dealt with state capture whistleblowers.
Mnonopi was suspended and now faces disciplinary action after the head of the Hawks, Godfrey Lebeya, issued her a letter on Tuesday saying she had 48 hours to state why action should not be taken against her.
"The investigation has started, which is what informed me to make a decision," Lebeya told the Sunday Times.
"With the preliminary investigation that I have on hand there was a need to suspend [her]."
Advocate Vincent Maleka SC, a member of the commission's legal team, said this week Jonas, former MP Vytjie Mentor and former government spokesperson Themba Maseko all testified about the conduct and behaviour of the Hawks.
Lebeya, who was appointed in June, said the Hawks were monitoring evidence given at the commission and would take action against officers implicated. On Friday he named Maj Gen Senaba Mosipi to head a team that will fast-track state capture investigations.
"I am putting together a team of people experienced with these matters," Lebeya said.
Mosipi had previously left the Hawks as a result of leadership uncertainty and political meddling.
Lebeya has made efforts to rehire other experienced officials who were purged from the Hawks by his predecessor, Berning Ntlemeza.
"We are getting back skills we lost, people we think are knowledgeable. They go way back with a kind of experience that is beyond reproach," Lebeya said.
The Zondo commission heard this week that while Maseko was giving evidence against former president Jacob Zuma and the Guptas to the Hawks, a 13-year-old case involving procurement was dug up and he was made to answer questions around it.
Maleka asked Zondo to intervene in the matter "because it is unfortunate that a witness such as Mr Maseko would have a cloud hanging over him on a matter that had happened almost 13 years ago".
The case involving Maseko goes back to his time as director-general of the department of public works.
When the former head of legal affairs at Eskom, Suzanne Daniels, gave a statement to Hawks officers last year about Eskom's pre-payment to the Gupta-owned company Tegeta, they allegedly told her "nothing was going to happen because people on the top are blocking the cases".
Lebeya said he would not allow the withdrawal of cases and would not be influenced by political considerations. "When we do investigations, we don't discriminate," he said.
Mnonopi was a brigadier and cluster commander for Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape when she was appointed by Ntlemeza as head of the anticorruption unit in Pretoria in 2015.
She also took over the running of the Eastern Cape Hawks office for several months earlier this year.
It was during that stint that she allegedly gave instructions that dockets relating to criminal investigations into former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini and former Eastern Cape social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi be taken away from the Hawks investigating officer, Capt Luphumlo Lwana, so they could be "reallocated".
Dlamini was being investigated over allegations that her family members scored in a R49m South African Social Security Agency tender to distribute food parcels.
Hawks oversight judge Frans Kgomo said: "We can confirm we are investigating that, and that a number of dockets were allegedly taken from Lwana. If we find there was undue influence we will recommend prosecution or a disciplinary inquiry."
In August last year, other high-profile dockets involving politicians - including those relating to the R45m Nelson Mandela funeral scandal and an investigation into fraudulent tender worth R60m in Buffalo City - were removed from Lwana.
A Hawks commander in the province, Lt Col Loyiso Mdingi has also claimed that provincial Hawks head, Maj Gen Nyameko Nogwanya, was in March last year instructed to investigate the then provincial ANC secretary Oscar Mabuyane in connection with a farm he had allegedly received from a businessman. Mdingi was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to work in June.
He said after initial investigations, Nogwanya had told Mnonopi there was no evidence of any corruption. Weeks later Nogwanya was charged with sexual harassment and suspended. The internal investigation is continuing. Nogwanya could not be reached for comment.
A second source in the Eastern Cape Hawks told the Sunday Times the allegations that Mabuyane was given the multimillion-rand farm by an Eastern Cape security boss was likely an attempt to derail his plans to become provincial ANC chairman.
Nevertheless he was elected to the post in December.
This week Mabuyane told the Sunday Times: "I have a 38ha farm and it's the extension of my bond and I pay that every month. I know that the Hawks did investigate this but they could not find anything, they didn't come to me."
Meanwhile, Sihlwayi said she was ready to answer any questions about her record in the provincial government.
"There were so many projects I worked on and if the Hawks say I stole, they must come prove it."
Dlamini could not be reached for comment. Mnonopi did not respond to phone calls or text messages.
Hawks national spokesperson Brig Hangwani Mulaudzi said it was clear there was section in the Eastern Cape Hawks that "is attempting to jump on the bandwagon of the Zondo inquiry into state capture".
He said: "The allegations are just a rehash of old, stale allegations."
He confirmed the investigation of Dlamini but said he was not aware of any case against Mabuyane and Sihlwayi. - Additional reporting by Mzilikazi wa Afrika..

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