Thursday, March 28, 2013

Painful Facts

Courts, the only institution we still trust, must tackle police torture

Torture has become routine within the Barberton police station and probably in the service as a whole.

In the early 2000s I wrote a story that landed me in the can – jail. This was a policeman’s revenge after I had published a story implicating him and a friend in the robbery and kidnapping of a sangoma.

But if this “good” officer thought he was teaching me a lesson, he was sadly mistaken. 

After the cell door had clanked shut, instead of being given the expected bad treatment by the others in the cell – you know, “hey give us a cigarette…” – I was treated to a whole night of valuable information on the torture methods of the then Barberton CID members.

Naturally, when other cops heard I’d been incarcerated, they were not too happy with their colleague, as they knew the awaiting-trial suspects would surely have briefed me on their own experiences. 

Ah! The power of being a well-known and respected journalist.

This incident came to mind recently with news that seven Barberton CID officers – yes seven – are to face assault charges after sharing their torture tactics with an armed robbery suspect. They are scheduled to stand trial on May 3.

Calling these guys CIDs (Criminal Investigation Department) is a misnomer. Instead they should be called STDs, (Suspect Torture Department).

Every year in Barberton at least two police officers face charges of assaulting suspects. What is more disturbing is that invariably they are let off on some technicality; not surprising, since their colleagues are the ones who take the complainant’s statement. 

Demonstrating just how brazen the cops have become, Melusi Mahlalela was being taken to court on the morning of September 22 (he’d been arrested the previous day on a charge of pointing a fire arm), when the detective escorting him to court, one Bheki Nkosi, was ordered by a colleague to bring Mahlalela upstairs instead  – “so he can tell us the truth”.

The upstairs truth session began at 9:30am and lasted until 1:30pm. During that time, Mahlalela says, seven policemen took turns torturing “the truth” out of him. 

Remember my friend Lieutenant-Colonel Dries Joubert? Yes, the one who denied that Barberton has a drug problem. Well, Joubert is alleged to have said “moer him!” when he walked in to check how the interrogation was coming along!

After his four-hour truth session, Mahlalela was dumped back in his cell. 

Downstairs, police officers, when alerted by other detainees to the “dying” man in their cell, said they’d call an ambulance, but it never came. Only when the evening shift came on duty was an ambulance summoned. A policeman was heard to remark: “There’s no way we’re having this guy die here on our shift!”  

No doubt the cops will deny his story, but how can one not believe it?  Maybe, for a start, the police should be asked to explain: how come Mahlalela did not appear before court on that September 22 morning – and instead ended up in hospital for a month-and-a-half? 

So, what can be done about a situation where torture has apparently become routine within the Barberton police and probably in the service as a whole?

The only way this country can hope to put a stop to police torture, is for the judiciary to step up and start prosecuting these rogue elements. Continually letting them off on technicalities is clearly sending the wrong message.

The courts seem to be the only institution that we can still trust. God knows, all others are plagued with problems. Home Affairs stands out as another example.

The courts really need to look beyond the statements submitted as evidence by the police. After all, why would someone wake up one day and decide to charge seven police officers with assault?

Why should we be concerned about this matter? If the police are not brought to book for their torturers’ ways, tomorrow it could be you or me instead of just the “criminal class”.

Robert McBride Not Guilty On All Charges

Former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride has won his appeal against a conviction of drunken driving and attempting to obstruct justice.

The high court in Pretoria on Thursday concluded he was not guilty on all charges. 

"The appeal against conviction on both counts is upheld," Judges Cynthia Pretorius and Lettie Molopa-Sethosa said in their written judgment.

"The appellant is found not guilty on all charges and is discharged."

McBride was arrested in 2006 after crashing his official car on the R511 following a Christmas party.
Earlier this month, the two judges reserved judgment in McBride's appeal against his conviction, as well as his five-year jail sentence.

In September 2011, a Pretoria regional magistrate sentenced McBride to two years imprisonment for driving under the influence of alcohol and an effective three years imprisonment for attempting to obstruct the course of justice.

Under the influence

Initially three of McBride's colleagues made statements supporting his version that he had not been drunk and did not leave the scene of the accident to evade justice. 

However, five months later they testified that he had been heavily under the influence of alcohol and systematically set about covering this up with their assistance.

In his appeal, McBride argued the three former colleagues had themselves been intimidated into changing their story. They were under investigation by the Organised Crime Unit (OCU) in a separate attempted murder matter and had been offered indemnity in exchange for statements against him.

McBride had previously clashed with the OCU. About a month before his colleagues changed their statements, he had written to the South African Police Service asking them to initiate an investigation into the possible involvement of some members of the OCU in cash-in-transit crimes.

In Thursday's judgment, Pretorius and Molopa-Sethosa wrote there was clear evidence that OCU members had manipulated the testimony of the three.

Describing the three as "self-confessed liars", the judges said the magistrate had erred in finding their testimony credible.

There were "several strange aspects" to McBride's behaviour after the accident, such as trying to get medical certificates from a variety of doctors and driving to Durban to see a doctor.

The state had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the judges concluded. "Although the appellant's action after the accident is suspect, it is not possible to draw the inference that the appellant was driving under the influence of intoxicating alcohol at the time beyond a reasonable doubt." 

U.N. Aims To Approve Congo "Search And Destroy" Force

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council aims to approve on Thursday the creation of a special force that would carry out "targeted offensive operations" to wipe out armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, council diplomats said.
The 15-member Security Council was still negotiating on Wednesday a draft resolution to establish the so-called intervention brigade within the existing 20,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, known as MONUSCO.
The United States had raised concerns that there was not a clear enough distinction between the job of the intervention brigade and the existing peacekeepers, but Britain and France hoped a compromise had been reached, diplomats said.
One senior council diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the aim of the so-called intervention brigade as "search and destroy," unlike traditional peacekeeping operations which cannot open fire unless they are attacked.
According to the draft, MONUSCO would "carry out targeted offensive operations through the Intervention Brigade ... either unilaterally or jointly with the (Congo army), in a robust highly mobile and versatile manner ... to prevent expansion of all armed groups, neutralize these groups, and to disarm them."
It states that the intervention brigade would be made up of three infantry battalions, one artillery and one special force and reconnaissance company headquartered in Goma under the direct command of the MONUSCO force commander.
Diplomats say South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique are the most likely candidates to supply the troops for the intervention unit. The draft resolution also says that a Congolese rapid reaction force should be created with the intention of taking over the work of the intervention brigade.
MONUSCO has a traditional peacekeeping mandate to protect civilians and support operations by the Congolese army in Congo - a country the size of Western Europe.
The draft resolution makes clear that the intervention brigade would be established "on an exceptional basis, and without creating a precedent or any prejudice to the agreed principles of peacekeeping."
Council diplomats said they would be watching the intervention brigade very closely as its success will be important for future peacekeeping operations.
African leaders signed a U.N.-mediated deal in February aimed at ending two decades of conflict in Congo's resource-rich east and paving the way for the Security Council to approve the creation of an intervention brigade.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed former Irish President Mary Robinson as his envoy to Africa's Great Lakes region to oversee implementation of the peace deal.
Eastern Congo has been overrun with Congolese and foreign armed groups, in particular the M23 rebels, who began taking parts of eastern Congo early last year, accusing the government of failing to honour a 2009 peace deal.
But earlier this month the M23 was wracked by infighting and hundreds of M23 rebels loyal to warlord Bosco Ntaganda fled into neighboring Rwanda or surrendered to U.N. peacekeepers after being routed by a rival faction.
Ntaganda, the fugitive Rwandan-born former Congolese general, walked into the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda and was last week transferred to the International Criminal Court, where he faces war crimes charges.
The draft Security Council resolution outlines MONUSCO's role in monitoring a U.N. arms embargo on Congo that would now include using unmanned surveillance drones to "observe and report on flows of military personnel, arms, or related materiel across the eastern border of the DRC." It will be the first time the United Nations has used such equipment.
The U.N. Security Council's Group of Experts, which monitors compliance with sanctions and an arms embargo on Congo, said in a report last year that Rwanda's defence minister was commanding the M23 revolt in Congo and that Rwanda was arming the rebels and supporting them with troops.
Rwanda - now a member of the Security Council - has strongly denied involvement.

SANDF releases names of SA soldiers killed in CAR

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) released the names of the soldiers who died in the Central African Republic (CAR) late on Tuesday.
"The minister of defence and military veterans, chief of the South African National Defence Force, chief of joint operations and chief of the South African Army wish to extend their sincerest condolences to friends and families of the deceased," a statement said.
Their names are as follows:
  • Corporal Mokgadi Darius Seakamela
  • Corporal Ntebaleng Andrew Mogorosi
  • Lance Corporal Daniel Sello Molara
  • Lance Corporal Lukas Mohapi Tsheke
  • Rifleman Lesego Maxwell Hertzog
  • Rifleman Zamani Jim Mxhosana
  • Rifleman Xolani Dlamini
  • Rifleman Vusumzi Joseph Ngaleka
  • Rifleman Karabo Edwin Matsheka
  • Rifleman Khomotso Paul Msenga
  • Rifleman Maleisane Samuel Thulo
  • Rifleman Motsamai William Bojane
  • Rifleman Thabiso Anthon Phirimana

Central African Republic: Is this what our soldiers died for?

The lure of arms deals and diamonds – and possibly other mineral resources – sucked the ANC into the Central African Republic.

South African military involvement in the Central African Republic has from the start been entwined with ANC-linked deals, raising questions about the motivation for the disastrous deployment of South African troops to the troubled country.

The figure at the centre of the web is the politically connected businessperson and fixer Didier Pereira.
Pereira is currently partnered to the ANC security supremo and fundraiser, Paul Langa, and former spy chief Billy Masetlha. Their group has initiated several business projects in CAR, including some involving diamonds

Read more CAR coverage

Previously, he partnered with ANC hard man Joshua "General" Nxumalo and the ANC funding front, Chancellor House, in an initiative that involved security and attempts to gain a diamond export monopoly in the CAR.

Pereira, originally from Congo-Brazzaville, is a special adviser to the recently toppled CAR president, François Bozizé.

He has maintained business ties with powerful ANC security and intelligence figures during both the Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma presidencies.

Although the ANC figures who Pereira does business with has changed between presidencies, the nature of his dealings have remained consistent.

Quid pro quo?

As the security situation in the CAR deteriorated in October last year, Pereira brokered direct access to Zuma for Bozizé's son and CAR defence minister, Francis Bozizé, in a bid to "unlock a sensitive weapons delivery issue", the specialist publication Intelligence Online reported recently.

Bozizé Jnr does not appear to have got what he came for because of South Africa's statutory weapons trade controls, but Pereira's reported role as a facilitator of this key meeting is noteworthy.

A CAR diplomat in Pretoria, who did want to be named because of the fluid political situation back home, said that Pereira had lived in South Africa for "more than 20 years" and that he was a recognisable figure among embassy staff.

He also previously partnered with a notorious Zimbabwean arms dealer, John Bredenkamp, according to sources with a detailed knowledge of the central African region and company searches in South Africa.

Other South African-linked interests in the CAR include the Canadian-based gold exploration and mining company, Axmin. Its president and chief executive, George Roach, was also associated with UraMin, a politically well-connected uranium prospecting company, which is said to have enjoyed Thabo Mbeki's backing when it won a concession in the CAR.

The concession was later sold to the French nuclear multinational, Areva.

The oil exploration company, DIG Oil, which also enjoyed Mbeki-era political support, has an oil concession in the south west of the country.

To the rescue

Bozizé's rule of the CAR has been precarious after he toppled his predecessor, Ange-Félix Patassé, in a coup in 2003, which was condemned at the time by both Mbeki and his then-deputy, Zuma.

Bozizé won an election in 2005 that excluded Patassé from the ballot, but his grip on power was soon threatened by Patassé-linked rebels. As Bozizé's military situation worsened, he sought help from South Africa.

A joint South African Defence Force (SANDF) and defence department "fact-finding mission" went to the CAR in January 2006. A flurry of diplomacy between Pretoria and Bangui in April that year culminated in the then-defence minister, Terror Lekota, signing a co-operation agreement in defence, minerals and energy at the end of that month, which he followed up with an "onsite assessment" trip to the CAR in May.

Troops and civilians still in the country are in danger of revenge attacks. (AFP)
Pereira was quick off the mark. On May 18, a week after Lekota's return, he signed a memorandum of understanding with the CAR mining ministry. It envisaged the creation of a public-private partnership, Inala Centrafrique, according to documents of Inala and its business partners, which were obtained by the Mail & Guardian.

ANC stake

Inala Centrafrique was formally registered in August 2006. Over time, its shareholding was settled at a 35% stake for the CAR government and 65% going to a South African company, Serengeti Group Holdings. The latter was majority-owned by Nxumalo, whose notoriety during the ANC underground days was underscored by his part in the Virodene vitamins-for-Aids scandal.

Significant stakes also belonged to Pereira and the Chancellor House Trust, share registers show.
An Inala Centrafrique business proposal to the CAR government, dated July 6 2007, retrospectively confirmed that "the joint venture is a culmination of the accord signed by both … Mbeki … and Bozizé … during the meeting of the governments in South Africa in … 2006 for the two countries to work together."

It identified Nxumalo as chief executive and Pereira as chief operations officer.

While this deal was being hammered out behind the scenes, South Africa signed a formal, five-year defence co-operation agreement with the CAR on February 11 2007, involving both the deployment of South African troops and the provision of military equipment.

Zuma renewed the agreement in December last year, on the grounds of which, in the face of the growing crisis, he ordered a reinforcement of troops to the CAR in January this year.

Diamonds and arms

The Inala Centrafrique joint venture between the CAR government and Pereira, Nxumalo and the Chancellor House Trust was primarily a mechanism to buy diamonds from the CAR's small-scale miners.
But the plan had two other elements, which, if implemented, would give Inala and its ANC-linked shareholders total dominance of the CAR's diamond market.

The first was an initiative to create and equip, on behalf of the state, a police des mines, or mining police, to combat illegal diamond dealing.

Seleka troops hold their position near the presidential ­palace in Bangui soon after the coup. (AFP)

The second element, it appears from the documents and an interview with a would-be Inala business partner, was for Inala to be granted an export monopoly by the CAR government.

In other words, although its majority shareholding was privately held, Inala would have been endowed with part of the form and function of a state agency: a national diamond exporter with an associated police enforcement arm.

Dividends of more than $800-million over 10 years were envisaged.

In a further example of the conflation of South African state and ANC party interests, a Serengeti subsidiary partnered with a South African armoured vehicle business, Mechanology, in September 2007 to revamp decommissioned armoured vehicles that the SANDF had offered to donate to Bozizé.

The armoured vehicle deal broke down, apparently because there was a dispute over who would pay for the refurbishment.

Inala's attempts to control the CAR diamond mining industry fizzled out by March 2008.

New ANC partners

By then, the Zuma-linked faction of the ANC's security and intelligence apparatus appears to have inherited the relationship with Pereira from Serengeti.

At about the same time that Serengeti dropped the ball on the armoured vehicles and the Inala diamond deal collapsed, a company called Bagamoyo Investment Holdings was formed with Pereira as a founding director.

Chief among Pereira's co-directors in Bagamoyo is Langa who, like Nxumalo before him, comes with a heavy-hitting ANC security and intelligence pedigree, but also with strong whiffs of controversy.

He was suspended and later dismissed as chief executive of the Robben Island Museum after a forensic audit found a R25-million hole in the company accounts back in 2008.

Langa was head of security co-ordination at ANC headquarters in the late 1990s. His Zonkizizwe group of companies appear to perform both security and fundraising functions for the ANC.
Other directors in Bagamoyo included:
  • Fabien Singaye, a former Rwandan diplomat who served as Bozize's personal adviser and is alleged to have played a central role in the purchase of CAR uranium assets by UraMin, a company with a number of South African links; and
  • John Robertson, an IT specialist who works with Langa in the Zonkizizwe controlled Tsohle Technology Holdings.
Masetlha confirmed that Baga­moyo was set up to exploit opportunities in CAR.

Masetlha said: "Our role was to try and engage South African business persons to invest in the area. Pereira happened to be one of the people who knew CAR well. I agreed to get involved and spoke to Paul []."

Masetlha, who is recovering from a long illness, said he was hazy about the details but added that Lazarus Mbethe was brought in as well, because of his business acumen.

Masetlha, Pereira, Langa and Mbethe appear as directors in two other shelf companies, Evening Star Trading 665 and Universal Pulse Trading 117, both set up in November 2006.

Mbethe is heavily involved in mining. He was part of the Pitsa ya Sechaba consortium that partnered with Chancellor House and the Russian company, Renova, to form United Manganese of Kalahari, which controversially got manganese rights in Northern Cape.

(Photo: AFP)
Masetlha said he and his partners were trying to get involved in stabilising the country through development. Projects he recalled included the refurbishment of a hotel, which is understood to have been the Oubangui Hotel, with which Pereira has also been associated.

He confirmed Langa had been "there on the ground" frequently – "he's been in and out" – and had concerned himself particularly with security issues.

Most significantly, Masetlha confirmed the group had an interest in diamonds from the region and had owned a barge to be used for alluvial diamond mining somewhere upstream on the Ubangi River where the group had a diamond concession.

He said the group had also discussed upgrading some of the main roads and the airport, but little progress had been made because of the instability in the country.

"The problem was security … the SA government got involved in trying to help Bozizé at least beef up his personal protection," said Masetlha.

No comment

Masetlha and another South African businessperson who has contact with Pereira independently supplied the same cell number for him.

When the M&G contacted the number and asked for Pereira, the man who answered the phone said he was Pereira. But when the M&G identified itself and indicated it wished to talk about the CAR, the person who answered said it was a wrong number. He refused to give his name and hung up.
Mbethe said he was in a meeting and then hung up the second time the M&G phoned him.
Robertson said he was not involved in Bagamoyo and referred questions to Langa.

Attempts to contact Langa by phone were unsuccessful. Written questions faxed to him at his request were unanswered at the time of going to press.

A spokesperson for the presidency was unavailable to comment.

Central African Republic Scramble For Minerals

AS pressure builds on President Jacob Zuma to explain South Africa's military involvement in the war-torn Central African Republic, it has emerged that companies with links to influential politicians and businessmen are gunning for oil and mineral deals in the region.

At least one company, Divine Inspiration Group Oil - owned by influential businesswoman Andrea Brown - is currently operating in the CAR.
Brown, who is the sole director of the company, is a key business partner with Encha Group, an investment company founded by Tiego Moseneke, brother of current Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke. She also acted as a consultant or worked with the government in the drafting of BEE legislation.
Thirteen South African soldiers were killed and 27 wounded over the weekend in CAR's capital, Bangui, as advancing rebels toppled the country's controversial president, Francois Bozize.
South African military command said the troops died while defending military assets, but troops on the ground, speaking through the SA National Defence Union, claimed that many were killed defending South African commercial interests.
Other companies linked to large-scale oil prospecting in the region - including an oil lake in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo that stretches to the southern region of CAR - are Caprikat and Foxwhelp, owned by Jacob Zuma's nephew, Khulubuse Zuma. Both these companies are registered in the Virgin Islands.