By Augustine Ehikioya
When Lieutenant General (Dr/Adv) Godfrey Lebeya was appointed as the National Head for Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) in June 2018 in South Africa, little did he know that the rots in the system was massive.
But four years down the lane, things appeared to now be looking good for security in the former apartheid Nation.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation has been established as an independent directorate within the South African Police Service in terms of Section 17C of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 as amended by the South African Police Service Amendment Act, 2008 (Act 57 of 2008).
The Directorate is now responsible for the combating, investigation and prevention of national priority crimes such as serious organized crime, serious commercial crime and serious corruption in terms of Section 17B and 17D of the South African Police Service Act, 1995 as amended.
The South African Police Service Amendment Act, 2012 (Act 10 of 2012) introduced the reporting procedures as provided in Section 34(1) of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004 which stipulates that reporting should be made to any police officer.
In terms of the latest amendment, all such offences must now be reported to a member of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.
So many issues that weighed down the Directorate in fighting crimes in the past four years have so far been tackled.
The National Head for DPCI was able to properly re-engineer the Directorate and position it for effectiveness by first identifying most issues within the first 100 days in office.
Some of the issues addressed by the Lieutenant General included incoherent organisational structure, stagnation in some investigations, transfer of personnel from DPCI to other divisions within the SAPS.
Other problems handled in the Directorate included nepotistic practices in appointments, poor and unfair allocation of human and physical resources, and inadequate implementation of the Police Act, which had adversely impacted on the functioning of the Directorate and the attrition of skilled personnel.
His efforts led to the redesigning of a fully developed structure for the Directorate which was approved in 2019 and now being implemented to enhance skills levels and retaining personnel in an effort to build capacity.
As a result, the DPCI, which is also referred to as HAWKS have been able to greatly fly high in tackling crimes and criminality in the country in the past four years.
As part of its achievements, it is currently handling 22,477 cases with more than 500,000 charges, and the monetary value is estimated at over R1.5 trillion (R1,574,874,806,355.57).
The cases involve approximately 23,519 suspects of which 12,360 have already been secured at court while 11,159 are still pending to be approached.
Among the cases under investigation, is a total of 1,998 cases that have reached decision stage, where the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is applying its mind.
For the two financial years of 2018/2019 and 2021/2022 alone, the DPCI arrested a total of 12,157 suspects that were brought before the courts of law.
Within the same period, the DPCI was able to secure a total of 4,447 convictions across the country.
Some of the high profile cases by HAWKS in the last four years included the first appearance on East London High Court on the 5th October, 2021 of the former Eastern Cape Health Member of Executive Council, Madam Sindiswa Gomba and her co-accused.
They were charged for fraud, money laundering, contravention of Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) and corruption in connection with transportation and booking of venues during the memorial service and funeral preparations of the late former President, Dr Nelson Mandela.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation also secured 15 natural persons including Jabulani Petros Mashamaite, a Member of Provincial Legislature (MPL) and 13 juristic persons with summonses to appear in court in relation to the allegations of tender corruption at Mogalakwena municipality.
The suspects, including the former Mayor, other senior officials, company directors and a wife to one of the former senior municipal officials, were said to have received gratification from the service providers and also facilitated other companies to receive payments for service that were never rendered.
The HAWKS, under the new leadership, was said to have also strengthen the fight against corruption by revitalizing the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) to fast track criminal investigation, prosecution and asset recovery.
From the period 2019 to 2022 financial years, a total of 554 suspects were said to have been arrested while 142 suspects were convicted for corruption related offences.
Some of the cases of the ACTT included the arms deal case in KwaZulu Natal High Court, allegations related to Superior Quality trading as Rekgonne Community Projects (RKP) showing irregularities in the financial flow analysis of a bank account where the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural development paid more than R244m to a company in April 2021.
To this end, the former CFO of Free State Department of Agriculture Madam Sylvia Dlamini, former Head of Department, Mr Peter Thabethe and the Director of RKP, Madam Lena Mohapi were arrested.
Another case was the discovery that some greedy criminals developed some means to steal the funds provided by the government for financial relief to cushion the impact of COVID 19.
In this area alone, a total of 143 accused persons have been secured in the various courts on 55 cases, while 33 cases have already been finalized with 31 convictions and 2 acquittals making a conviction rate of 94%.
Concerning serious commercial crime investigation, the HAWKS also arrested 1,655 suspects while 605 were convicted.
Some of the cases included the arrest of an accused by customs official at OR Tambo International Airport, who was travelling from South Africa to Hong Kong carrying a sports bag containing cash to the value of R86.90 million, other suspects, Msawenkosi Wilson Gazu and Fakazile Sweetness Mazibuko, who operated a Ponzi Scheme under the name of Trade for Life, were arrested for fraud and sentenced to fifteen (15) years imprisonment plus an additional fifteen (15) years to run concurrently on all other counts.
For approving a grant of R6 million to an entity on verbal instruction, without following correct procedures, three men who are former Land Bank CEO, Philemon Mohlahlane, Ruben Mohlaloga, a former Member of Parliament, and Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu were arrested.
All the three accused were found guilty and sentenced on the 14 February, 2019, as follows: Mohlahlane: seven years imprisonment, Mohlaloga: twenty years imprisonment and Nkhwashu: twenty–four (24) years imprisonment.
On serious organized crime investigation involving Police personnel killings, the HAWKS have arrested 187 suspects since 2018.
Some of the cases included the murder of Constable De Lange in 2018, where Mehlape was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for possession of firearm, 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances, eight years for kidnapping and five years for possession of stolen vehicle.
Also in the case, Mswazi was sentenced to 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and eight years for kidnapping, while Maphotho received a three-year suspended sentence for defeating the ends of justice.
For the murder of her husband, Warrant Officer Thulani Ngwabe (51) in November 2019, the wife, Nonkululeko Ngwabe (46), was arrested in December 2019 and sentenced to 22 years imprisonment for the brutal murder of her husband.
The case against her three other accomplices is remanded in KwaZulu Natal High Court sitting at Pietermaritzburg for trial from 3 to 23 October, 2022.
On the murder of Lt Col Kinnear, 23 gang members were arrested including Abongile Nqodi (35) who has been convicted to serve an effective 20 years direct imprisonment.
For the killings of two HAWKS officers during CIT robbery, nine (9) accused are still facing trial at the North West High Court sitting at Mahikeng and the case is remanded to 29 August, 2022 until 02 September, 2022 for trial.
In cases of bank robberies, a DPCI led Bank Robbery Task Team arrested a group of suspects for a business-related robbery in Empangeni.
Among them, twelve suspects including six Zimbabweans and six South Africans, who robbed 20 different bank, eight of them were convicted in the Gauteng Local Division of the High Court for 31 counts including 11 bank robberies, 2 pattern of racketeering activities, attempted murder, possession of unlicensed firearms, and malicious damage to property.
On 25 January, 2019, the convicts were sentenced as follows: Sikhumbuzo Sibanda: 2 life and 152 years, Strike Ndebele : 2 life and 34 years imprisonment, Mduduzi Makhubu : 2 life and 37 years imprisonment, Themba I Ndlovu: 2 life and 85 years imprisonment.
Others are Xolani Nxumalo: 2 life and 88 years imprisonment, Bafana Ntuli : 2 life and 142 years imprisonment, Nkosana Nkomo : 2 life and 88 years imprisonment, and Lucky Dube : 2 life and 54 years imprisonment.
For Cash-in-Transit heists, the HAWKS were said to have arrested 726 suspects since 2018 in connection with 826 Cash-In-Transit robberies.
During the same period, 110 accused persons were convicted and sentenced on 115 cases, including 77 life sentences.
On 1 February, 2019, Warrant Officer Musa, from the Special Task Force and Lieutenant Colonel Carl van der Vyver from Crime Intelligence were murdered in a shootout with heavily armed cash-in-transit robbers in Nongoma.
In the case, Sandile Gumede (32), who was arrested after the incident and found in possession of the vehicle that was used during the robbery, was sentenced on 13 May, 2021 by KwaZulu Natal High Court to two life imprisonment for double murder of the Police officers, and seven life imprisonment for the murder of his seven accomplice.
He was further sentenced to 20 years for Cash in transit robbery and 10 years imprisonment for each count of attempted murder, while the sentences will run concurrently.
Concerning damages to essential infrastructures, 123 arrests were effected in 2020 for the cases of theft of fuel from the pipelines mushroomed.
Among the few cases so far finalized, four Malawian suspects, Norman Tsvito (44), Cliff Mtantho (46), Beckham Mtando (28) and George Katumba (56) were arrested on 01 August 2020 at Zamdela Sasolburg, convicted and sentenced on 18 March 2022.
The Court sentenced Tsvito to fifteen (15) years imprisonment and the other three accused were sentenced to a fine of R1000 or thirty (30) days imprisonment.
For stealing precious metals and diamonds in the country valued at R55,035,903.20 since 2018, a total of 429 suspects were arrested while 59 suspects were convicted.
A copper cable thief, Ronald George (42), was also sentenced on 15 March, 2022 by the Durban Regional Court to 26 years imprisonment of which 10 is suspended for theft of Transnet copper cables worth R333,000, money laundering, pattern of racketeering activity and malicious damage to property.
Trafficking in persons cases between 2018/2019 and 2021/2022 financial years, led to the arrest of 85 suspects by the HAWKS.
In the same period, 18 accused were convicted and sentenced to various years of imprisonment.
Some of the highlights included the arrest of Alaba Makanjuola Asabi (38), a Nigerian male and the rescue of two Zimbabwean females who were victims used as “commercial sex workers”.
In October 2021, the accused was found guilty and sentenced by the Gauteng High Court sitting in Pretoria on two counts of trafficking in persons and sentenced to two (2) life imprisonment.
He was further sentenced to 30 years for three counts of possession and manufacturing of child pornography and 15 years for using the services of a victim.
Over and above two life sentences, he is to serve an effective period of 45 years imprisonment and also declared a prohibited person in the Republic of South Africa.
Between 2018/2019 and 2001/2022 financial years, HAWKS also arrested 373 suspects for crimes relating to endangered species including abalone, rhino horns, elephant tasks, lion bones, and pangolin.
In the same period, 114 of them were convicted and sentenced in the Endangered Species cases valued at R449 870 865-04.
Within the period, the HAWKS have also seized counterfeit goods and made several arrests, including springs fake washing powder, and counterfeit vehicle parts.
Under the crimes against the state, including incitement and conspiracy to commit public violence and arson that occurred during July 2021, the HAWKS arrested 35 suspects of the July 2021, unrest.
For the State Capture cases, the DPCI in collaboration with the joint Task Force, is said to have dealt with 172 recommendations requiring law enforcement agencies’ attention.
While many achievements and cases in the past four years have not been mentioned here, the National Head of DPCI, Lieutenant General (Dr/Adv) Godfrey Lebeya during the office’s first official media briefing on Tuesday 23rd August, 2022 in Pretoria, has assured that more changes that will boost the activities of HAWKS are underway.
After reeling out the achievements, as monitored by Security Watch Africa (SWA), his message to South Africans, reads “Refuse to be part of corruption. Resist the temptation of demanding drugs. Be vigilant against fraudulent employment promises/opportunities which lead to human trafficking.
“Careful consideration when engaging in online dating sites which culminates to extortion. Fraudsters target unsuspecting victims and siphons money from them in pretext of a relationship.
“Report any suspicion of impersonation or identity theft-people demanding money in exchange for scrapping cases
“Desist from assisting unknown people withdraw money from money markets using your identity document as you might be aiding criminal and become an accessory after the fact. Report wrong doing to law enforcement structures
“In conclusion, the DPCI is committed to ending impunity for high-level corruption and other crimes in South Africa,” he stated.
While commending the achievements by HAWKS in the past four years, it is hoped that it will continue to carryout its functions without fear or favour.
Many African countries where such various crimes are currently being swept under the carpet, due to one consideration or the other, should also start to emulate HAWKS and the South African government for not only arresting high profile criminals, but prosecuting and ensuring they get various degree of sentences for their crimes.
This, definitely, will go a long way in reducing the rates of crime and criminality in the African continent.