KZN top cop moved as watchdog turns up heat
A senior KZN cop has been sent to the Eastern Cape as Ipid probes him for interfering in political violence
A senior KwaZulu-Natal cop has been moved out of the province just weeks after an investigation was opened into allegations that he meddled in political violence cases.
The officer, Brigadier Bongani Maqashalala, was sent to KwaZulu-Natal's Directorate for Priority Crimes, known as the Hawks, during a major SAPS restructuring plan under the leadership of former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane in January 2016.
He was initially made commander of the unit that dealt with organised crime in the province – but was later tasked with investigating the spate of political killings that has ravaged KZN. He was also one of the cops who testified before the Moerane Commission, which was set up by premier Willies Mchunu in 2016 to investigate political killings. The commission handed over its findings to Mchunu this week.
But the Sunday Times reported last month that a complaint of obstructing and defeating the ends of justice, and contravening the Protection of Information Act, had been made against Maqashalala.
Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesperson Moses Dlamini confirmed that the complaint had been made against Maqashalala and that the watchdog body was investigating.
Dlamini did not answer questions on the current status of Ipid’s investigation.Now, just weeks after the original article was published, Times Select can confirm that Maqashalala has been redeployed.
Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that Maqashalala, who previously headed the Eastern Cape Intelligence Division, was now going to head the Serious Anti-Corruption Unit in the Eastern Cape, his home province.
This unit, he said, “needs a serious injection and leadership based on the high-profile investigations”.
However, a source within the Hawks, with direct knowledge of Maqashalala’s redeployment, said the sudden redeployment had everything to do with the Ipid probe into his alleged meddling in political violence investigations.
But Mulaudzi denied this, saying allegations against Maqashalala were “just hearsay” and that the Hawks “don’t deal with gossip”.
Asked if Maqashalala’s redeployment will not have an impact on investigations into political violence in the province, Mulaudzi said: “There are other competent senior officers that can take over the baton to lead the team tasked with investigating political killings. The minister of Police is on record that he will make pronouncements on the composition of the team.”The complaint against Maqashalala related to an alleged clandestine meeting he requested with Umzimkhulu mayor Mphuthumi Mpabanga in June, where he told the mayor that the Hawks had uncovered a plot to kill him.
After testifying before the Moerane Commission on the political killings in Umzimkhulu, Mpabanga later made a private submission about this secret meeting.
In a letter, which was leaked to the Sunday Times, Mpabanga said he met Maqashalala on June 27 – at the officer’s insistence – and he was told that the reason for the meeting was to beef up his security as the Hawks had uncovered an assassination plot.
He said Maqashalala told him that the plot involved one of his security guards, and asked him if he would allow police to provide him with their own security. He also suggested he should change all of his security guards.
Mpabanga said Maqashalala also requested contact numbers of his bodyguards, but he refused.
The meeting, he said, had left him in “a state of confusion and more fear” as he was worried that it might have been an attempt to interfere with his security detail to make him more vulnerable.
However, he was surprised that he never heard from Maqashalala after their meeting and that no one was arrested after the plot to kill him was uncovered.
At the time of the original article, Maqashalala referred queries to Mulaudzi, who said the Hawks were not aware of any investigation again him.