The public spat between Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and the former head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) – better known as the Hawks – Berning Ntlemeza has turned dirty, according to a report.
The Sunday Times reports that Ntlemeza allegedly attempted to blackmail the police minister while Mbalula is also said to have interfered in police investigations surrounding his wife’s alleged involvement in fraud and corruption in the Free State.
Ntlemeza, who’s been fighting to hold on to his job after a high court found his appointment as Hawks head unlawful, reportedly paid three visits to Mbalula in the days after his appointment on March 31, allegedly claiming to have files that could compromise the minister.
He apparently used the files on Mbalula as leverage to be allowed to remain in his job “to manage the situation”.
Well-placed sources in the police who spoke to the Sunday Times said Ntlemeza had told Mbalula that he could “handle” the case involving his wife Nozuko’s corruption case which the Hawks are investigating.
The police priority crime unit has been investigating fraud and corruption allegations involving Nozuko, suspended SABC executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng and others relating to R1 billion they received to build houses in the Free State.
Ntlemeza allegedly also told Mbalula that he could make another corruption investigation into the minister himself disappear.
According to the report, police sources said the corruption investigation relates to a Hawks probe into an alleged R1 million payment from murdered North West businessman Wandile Bozwana to radio celebrity Thabo “Tbo Touch” Molefe to fund a trip for Molefe and Mbalula to the US two years ago.
Ntlemeza told Mbalula that he was trying to “save him” from the investigation.
The former Hawks boss is also said to have asked Motsoeneng to persuade Mbalula to keep him as the head of the unit, and Motsoeneng visited Mbalula following the request.
Ntlemeza confirmed to the Sunday Times he met Mbalula shortly after his appointment to brief the minister about ongoing investigations, but denied that he tried to blackmail him.
Mbalula on the other hand declined to comment, but did not deny or confirm that Ntlemeza had tried to blackmail him.
On the same day Mbalula announced that Yolisa Matakata would be the acting head of the Hawks, according to sources, he had demanded the police file into his wife to be handed to him personally on April 13.
However, Mbalula has rubbished the claims as a “smear to tarnish my name” but data shows the file was retrieved from the unit’s computer system on March 16 – two weeks before Mbalula’s appointment as police minister.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi also denied that Mbalula had demanded the file, saying it had been moved from Bloemfontein by a known individual and “landed” in Matakata’s office.