Hawks high profile investigations

This premium content has been made freely available

Police

28 February 2018
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) provided the Committee with a detailed explanation of its role in investigating state capture allegations – and its frustration at the delays in getting the go-ahead to make arrests. It also provided a progress report on its specialised units dealing with illegal firearms and narcotics, as well as its operations to combat human trafficking and rhino poaching.

The Committee was concerned that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had taken the decision to prosecute suspects involved in the Estina dairy case four months after the submission of the “state capture” case docket by the Hawks. Members suggested there might be many other dockets that were on the NPA’s desk where decisions on prosecution were not being taken. The Hawks said that while the NPA had delayed bringing the cases to the courts, it had not interfered in the investigations. Members asked the Hawks why they had to wait for NPA approval to make arrests in cases involving state capture, as there was no such requirement for crimes such as murder or robbery. They said it was unclear if the NPA should be part of the state capture investigation, because it seemed like there could have been a deliberate blocking of the DPCI’s work. It was resolved to have a joint meeting  with the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development in order to look further into the issue of the delays bythe  NPA in prosecuting individuals involved in state capture.

The DPCI then briefed the Committee on two specialised units that had been established in 2016. These were the National Bureau for Illegal Firearm and Priority Violent Crime (NBIFCPVC) and the South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (SANEB). An interim capacity had been placed nationally to deliver on the mandate and there had been success in relation to arrests and seizures since inception. The NBIFCPVC had made 598 arrests, 1 980 firearms had been recovered and 61 984 rounds of ammunition. The SANEB unit had adopted a threat-based and integrated approach to effectively and holistically address the entire drug supply chain, by focussing on drug outlets, illicit cultivation, illicit production/manufacturing, human couriers and drug trafficking networks. 496 arrests had been made, with 150 convictions, while the value of drugs involved had amounted to R733 million.

Trafficking In Persons (TIP) was a rapidly growing global phenomenon and the second most lucrative transnational organised crime activity, and had been declared as an operational priority by the DPCI. Of major concern was South Africa’s porous borders, and the extent of corrupt activities at the country’s ports of entry. Although there had been 42 arrests, there had been only four convictions. 617 rescue missions had been undertaken, mostly in the Free State (247) and North West (104).

The DPCI said it was holistically focused on wildlife trafficking, nationally and transnationally. The main focus area was on rhino horn trafficking. The DPCI participated in several national and international initiatives to combat wildlife trafficking in an integrated approach. It had developed new practical standard operational procedures to address traffickers at key points of entry, with the focus on the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA).

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
 

The Chairperson welcomed everyone, including Members of the Portfolio Committee on Women in Presidency who had requested to be part of the meeting. The Committee noted the appointment of the new Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele, and hoped that this would bring about a change in the fight against crime in the country. The Committee had also seen that progress had been made by the police in Engcobo, including the arrests that had been undertaken. Members would be given an opportunity to comment on the latest developments within the South African Police Service (SAPS) including the inroads that had been made by Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) on state capture.

Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) asked about the timing of the arrests that had been made by the Hawks, since they had happened on the day there was a change in the President. It seemed like there had been political pressure to conduct these arrests.

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) said that SAPS should be dealing with crime in every province in the country and not just focus on Engcobo, as these cult churches were operating throughout the country. The Committee hoped that SAPS would be able to recover all the firearms taken from the police in Engcobo. There was a need to commend the work that had been done by the police in arresting those involved in the killing of police in the area. An intelligence-driven operation was critically important in dealing with crime in the country.

Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) also commended the work that had been done by the police, especially the prompt response in arresting the perpetrators in Engcobo in less than 72 hours, as promised. The Committee would also like to thank the Chairperson for representing the Committee at the memorial service for the five police officers who had been killed. The Committee would also like to congratulate the work of the Hawks as it could now feel that the Hawks were no longer “flying high, but flying low”. The Hawks should keep up the good work, as this was commendable. The Committee also welcomed the appointment of the new Minster. Members were aware that he was bringing a lot of experience to the portfolio given his past experience as the National Commissioner.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would get a briefing from Crime Intelligence and this would be an opportunity for Members to deliberate on issues of intelligence-driven policing and fighting crime and the issue of Engcobo.

Investigation by Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) into “State Capture”

Lt Gen Yolisa Matakata, Acting Head: Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI, or Hawks), said there had already been an indication in November last year that the Directorate was finalising its investigation into state capture, but there had been no indication at the time as to which investigation was being conducted by the Hawks. This was an investigation into the Estina dairy farm matter, and the Hawks had to wait for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to make a decision, based on what was contained in the investigation. When this was finalised, it could go ahead and get warrants of arrest. The arrests made on that particular day were not due any political pressure, but were based on the decision taken by NPA at the time.

A multi-disciplinary task team had been formed in Engcobo to speedily investigate the killing of the police officers. The Hawks agreed that this multi-disciplinary task team should operate nationally where there was killing of SAPS members and other serious incidents. The issue had been discussed already, and it was commendable to see this also coming from Members.

There were other investigations that were still being conducted on state capture, and the Hawks would be making arrests where possible. There was an understanding that the investigation of these cases needed to be expedited to avoid losing momentum on what had been started.

The Chairperson said that it was public knowledge that some of the interested parties and suspects had left the country. There were also media reports that the DPCI had had discussions with the lawyers of these interested parties and suspects. The Committee wanted to ensure that the Directorate was in collaboration with its international partners, as well as INTERPOL, so that all the suspects were brought back to South Africa and appeared in court.

Mr Ramatlakane said that the Acting Head of the DPCI was saying the case docket for the investigation into state capture had been submitted in November 2017 for the NPA to make a decision to prosecute, but that the decision was made only in February 2018. His main concern was that the decision was only taken after almost four months, despite the case having an integrated approach with the NPA on investigation. It seemed there was a possibility that there were many other piles of dockets on the desk of NPA, where decisions were not being taken on prosecution. The Committee should write to the Chairperson of the Justice Committee expressing concern at the delays by the NPA in taking a decision on prosecutions.
           
The Chairperson wanted to know about the extent of cooperation within the State-Owned Entities (SOEs), especially from whistle blowers and witnesses. It was unclear if there had been an effort from members of the public to assist the DPCI by reporting criminal activities.

Ms Kohler Barnard asked about the progress on the investigation that had been announced by IPID in January, which had involved a fraud investigation into the misuse of funds at the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA), and it involved the current Acting Head of the Hawks. It was most uncomfortable having the Acting Head of the Hawks under investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

Mr A Shaik-Emam (NFP) said that there was always a leakage of information to the media whenever when the DPCI was about to make arrests, and this hampered the success of the unit. What measures could be implemented to try to prevent this situation? What was being done to try and identify people who were involved in the leaking of confidential information to the media?

Ms Molebatsi wanted to know the timeline where one could expect the Hawks to arrest people involved in state capture.

Lt Gen Matakata responded that the DPCI would not be held to ransom by some lawyers, and had refused to provide information that they had requested. The DPCI was working with other agencies, including INTERPOL, although it could not go into any further details as to what was being done with these agencies. There was a kind of working methodology at the NPA that was called prosecution-guided investigation. The NPA had announced that they have given a number of prosecutors to work with the DPCI, which was now working with the prosecution-guided investigation methodology. There had been a team of prosecutors and investigators working together on state capture over a period of time. The DPCI would have finished the investigation and given it over to the very prosecutors for them now to take the decision and advise what charges they were going to prefer. It was unfortunately difficult say why the NPA had taken so long to finalise the charges. DPCI just wanted to be given the charges in order to arrest those involved.

The DPCI could express concerns if there was a general feeling that matters were dragging, and this was something that was happening. There were cases where one would find that the docket had been there for a year, waiting for the NPA to make a decision. The DPCI was clear that everyone was working under pressure, and was also saying it needed to show that it was working on the state capture matters. However, the NPA had given the DPCI the go-ahead only in February.

Lt Gen Matakata said work had been done in working with whistleblowers and witnesses, and this had especially been the case during the search and seizure operation in the Free State, where people had started sharing information that would provide some support in arresting the suspects. Whistleblowers had been cooperating with the Hawks and there had not been any problems in this regard.

She said she had only read in the paper that she was being investigated by IPID, and IPID would have to comment in this regard. There was a team that was working on state capture only, and the NPA had dedicated prosecutors for this investigation, so it was easy to know where the leakage of information could possibly be coming from, between DPCI prosecutors and NPA prosecutors. The DPCI was trying as much as possible to contain information and avoid any possible leakage of information. However, there had been a leakage of information and the DPCI was investigating this case.

Mr Shaik-Emam said the DPCI was dealing with very high profile cases, very sensitive matters and the allegations were serious, but people were released on bail within a short space of time. It was even more concerning considering that the suspects were high risk because of the nature of the crime committed. The bail conditions of these individuals were usually very lenient, and it looked as if there was no consideration of the seriousness of these cases. What was being done to resolve this problem?

Mr Ramatlakane commented that a lawyer had been a stumbling block in the arrest of Mr Atul Gupta, and it looked like this lawyer was defeating the ends of justice. It would be important to know if there were no charges that could be brought against a lawyer who had the audacity to defeat the ends of justice. The role of a lawyer was to represent a suspect in a court of law. It was unclear if there was anything that DPCI could do if there was a general feeling that the NPA were dragging their feet in making a decision to press charges. Which law said that the DPCI could not arrest anyone until the NPA had made a decision and given the go-ahead? It was only the DPCI and the police that had the power to make an arrest, and therefore it did not make any sense for the DPCI to be “walking around with their hands tied behind their back,” as if there was nothing that could be done. The DPCI should use the powers provided to them to make arrests.

The Chairperson commented that all suspects should be treated the same, and there should not be a distinction made between white collar crime, commercial crime and ordinary crime. It was impossible to find a situation where there would be negotiation over a crime like murder. Was another hierarchy in relation to high profile cases now being created?

Lt Gen Matakata responded that no negotiation had taken place whatsoever, and this needed to be explained to the Committee. There was only correspondence with the lawyer representing Mr Athul Gupta, who had wanted to know the reasons why Mr Gupta was being arrested. The DPCI had responded, making it clear that the DPCI wanted Mr Gupta to be arrested, as he was a fugitive. Mr Gupta was currently not in the country and this was a challenge, but DPCI following other avenues as a warrant of arrest had been issued. It would not be held ransom by a lawyer, and this must be emphasised. It should also be clarified that the lawyer had not refused to hand over the client, but he had wanted information from the DPCI which he was not at liberty to receive. There was no different treatment for different suspects, and the DPCI was not treating people differently based on who they were. It would deal with all those involved in plundering state resources, but it needed prosecutors who were going to prosecute the matter. It was easy to say that the Hawks “must go and make arrests,” but they needed prosecutors who could ensure there was a successful prosecution in these cases. The DPCI was aware that these were complex and huge matters, and there were also issues of asset forfeiture that were still encompassed in the investigations by the Asset Forfeiture Unit working with the DPCI. Consideration had been given to just arresting the suspects and letting them appear in court, as the DPCI was frustrated about the fact that the NPA was dragging its feet.  

NPA delays

Ms Kohler Barnard wanted to know if there had been any proactive work done by the DPCI in relation to the massive delays by the NPA. It would be important to know about the processes that had been undertaken in trying to circumvent the delays by the NPA, as it looked as if it was asleep and had remained so for a year or two on certain matters specifically to do with state capture. Was the NPA part of the DPCI’s state capture investigation, because it seemed like there could have been a deliberate blocking of its work on state capture by the NPA. That was the obvious conclusion that had to be reached.

Lt Gen Matakata said the Estina investigation docket had been with the NPA since November for them to take a decision to charge those who needed to be charged, and what charges were they going to face in court. The DPCI had been given the go-ahead only in February make the arrests. The DPCI could not say what the reasons for delay were -- maybe they were still applying their minds, but this was still unclear. The NPA had agreed that these were the individuals for whom arrest warrants were needed, and they were now the people who were going to be arrested and face certain charges.
The DPCI had to wait for the charges that the NPA were going to lay against them. The investigation was linked to other matters that were still coming on the state capture, and the DPCI did not want to arrest people just to be seen that it had arrested individuals. These matters were interlinked with other matters, and probably the same suspect was linked to other state capture investigations.

Ms L Mabija (ANC) wanted to be certain if she had heard and understood Lt Gen Matakata well concerning the NPA. In a nutshell, had she said that NPA had hindered the progress of the DPCI in achieving its mandate, as expected by the Committee?

Lt Gen Mataka said the issue was about the time NPA had taken to make its decision. She did not want to say they were hindering the work of the DPCI, because it had been able to finalise all the investigations, and the NPA needed to take the decision on whether to prosecute in court or not. The time they took was a concern to the DPCI, and there had been engagements with the NPA where the DPCI had made it clear that it was being affected by their not making the decision timeously. In a way, the NPA was hindering the work of the DPCI in respect of taking the matters expeditiously to court. The NPA was mandated to make the decision on who must be arrested or not, so there had been a hindrance in the work that needed to be done and finalised in court, because the DPCI had completed all the investigating work that needed to be done. However, it had not been hindered in carrying out its investigation into state capture, as that had been done.
           
Ms Mabija said that it was quite clear that the NPA was hindering the work of DPCI although the Acting Head did not want to say this openly. It would be important for the Committee to know if she was able to share her frustrations about the delays within the NPA with those who had appointed her.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) commented that an ordinary person who had committed a crime was immediately arrested, and the DPCI or SAPS did not have to wait for a decision from the NPA. Therefore, it did not make sense for the DPCI to say that the reason for the delays in arresting the culprits involved in state capture was because they were waiting for a decision from NPA. Why did it have to wait for the NPA to take the decision, despite having a good case to make the arrests?

Mr Shaik-Emam indicated that the police had the right to oppose the granting of bail for suspects that had been arrested, or for putting strict conditions in place, especially in high profile cases like those involved in state capture. What action had been taken by the DPCI to try and prevent the overnight bail that had been issued?

Mr Ramatlakane suggested that there should be a joint committee meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development in order to address a number of issues, including the time it took for the NPA to make a decision to prosecute individuals. There might be a number of cases that were still within the NPA without any decision being taken. The annual performance plan (APP) of the Department could not be hampered by a poor performance of the NPA. The Committee should be clear that the NPA should be held accountable and could not be untouchable. There would be value in having a joint meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, as it had the potential to address a number of issues, and there should be an official from the NPA present at the meeting so as to account to Members. There was a perception from Members and the general public that there had been deliberate action by the NPA to slow down the investigation, and therefore it was the Committee’s duty to get all the facts so that the NPA was aware that the Committee was concerned about these delays.

Ms Kohler Barnard suggested that the Committee should invite the NPA to come before the Committee to address matters that had been flagged by Members. The Committee did not really need the Justice Committee, but certainly needed the NPA to appear here. It should come before the Committee to answer as to what was causing the delays which hampered the progress of the SAPS entities.

The Chairperson explained that the Committee needed to invite the Justice Committee in terms of Parliamentary procedure, so as to have proper discussions.

Mr Maake agreed with the suggestion to have a joint meeting with the Justice Committee so as to have proper discussion on the matter.

Lt Gen Matakata reiterated that the NPA was not hindering the investigation that was being undertaken on state capture, but were hindering progress in taking the matter to court.

Ms Mabija wanted to know if there had been any correspondence between the NPA and the DPCI while the case docket was already with the NPA. Had there been a sharing of information on challenges or glitches experienced? The Committee should also be briefed on whether the DPCI had been able to share its frustration with the NPA about the delays that had been experienced.  

Lt Gen Matakata responded that there had been communication with the Minister of Police at the time regarding frustrations about delays by the NPA. The former Minister had been provided with progress reports on all of these matters, and the time it was taking for NPA to charge people who were implicated in state capture. There had been communication with the NPA, including meetings between the prosecutors of the DPCI and NPA, to try to find out what was causing these delays. There had also been a meeting between the Department of Police and the NPA to try to address the delays. It was unclear if the delays were deliberate or not. There was no investigation on whether NPA had been “captured.”

Mr Groeneweld wanted to know why the DPCI had to wait for a decision to be taken by the NPA before making arrests. There was certainly no law that prohibited the DPCI from arresting suspects involved in criminal activities.

Mr Shaik commented that there had not been a response on the reasons provided by the NPA for the delays. Had there been any request by the NPA for more particulars about all the suspects? This would be important in order to determine if the delays were deliberate or not.

Mr Ramatlakane said that the proposal that had been made to have a joint meeting with NPA was precisely to get detailed information on all these questions asked by Members. The questions needed to be asked directly to the NPA, instead of being provided by speculative answers from the DPCI. The Committee was not happy with the time it took for the DPCI to make the arrests, despite being empowered to do so.

The Chairperson said that he would write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development for a joint meeting next week. The Committee would also write to the Minister to highlight its concerns over the delays, as the indication was that the Acting Head was in correspondence with the former Minister of Police.

DPCI on Specialised Units, Human Trafficking and Rhino Poaching

Maj Gen Mogoruti Ledwaba, Head: Organised Crime, DPCI, said that the purpose of the briefing was to inform the Committee regarding developments on the establishment of specialised units -- the National Bureau for Illegal Firearm and Priority Violent Crime (NBIFCPVC) and South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau (SANEB).

During the 2016State of the Nation Address, former President Zuma had announced the establishment of these two specialised units. The establishment of the NBIFCPVC had been a developmental issue. Since its inception, the DPCI management had prioritised the immediate establishment of members from its existing capacity within the Serious Organised Crime environment. Through extensive consultation with various operational environments within the SAPS and the SAPS national firearms Strategy, it was determined that following national strategic focus areas were the most pragmatic and effective way of holistically addressing the proliferation of firearms and the priority violent crimes threat which were impacting South Africa.
Criminal linkages through forensic practice referred to the investigation of threats (criminal groupings) identified through the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS), DNA and fingerprint linkages. Illegal firearm trafficking and networks referred to the investigation of the illicit manufacture and trafficking of illegal firearms and explosives both nationally and transnationally by organised crime networks. Where firearms and explosives caches were discovered, said caches also had to be investigated by the NBIFCPVC. There was also a focus on illegal importing/exporting of firearms and/or ammunition, as well as explosives.
With regard to the interim capacity placed at the national and provincial level, there was a total of 204 personnel throughout the country. Gauteng had the highest number of officials (56, with 13 officers and 43 non-commissioned officers-detectives), followed by KZN (34 with 10 officers and 24 non-commissioned officers-detectives). Northern Cape had the lowest number of officials (five, with four officers and one non-commissioned officer). In terms of the overall operational performance of the NBIFCPVC, there had been a total of 598 arrests. A total of 1 980 firearms had been recovered and 61 984 rounds of ammunition. The type of pistols recovered included shotguns (949), revolvers (419), AK 47s (19) and R5/LM5 rifles (7). Most of the firearms were recovered in KZN (273) and Gauteng (171).
           
Maj Gen Ledwaba said that all firearms seized and priority violent crime scenes were optimally checked for forensic linkages such as IBIS, fingerprints, DNA and other forensic practices, to gather evidence and make linkages to corroborate objective evidence. The rationale was to make links to a series of crime scenes against the individuals or criminal groups arrested. In a DPCI project, an ATM criminal group that was arrested during the takedown operation, had been linked to several ATM attacks around the country. The cases had been centralised and the members of the criminal enterprise were being prosecuted for racketeering.

Due to the nature of priority violent crimes and firearms being linked to multiple crime scenes, the unit endeavoured to make linkages to corroborate evidence. The Prinsloo investigation had been transferred from the National Firearms Task Team (NFTT) component in the Western Cape to the NBIFCPVC, Western Cape. The case against Raves and Laher, on charges of racketeering and contraventions of the Firearms Control Act, had been scheduled in the Western Cape High Court.

The SANEB unit had adopted a threat-based and integrated approach to effectively and holistically address the entire drug supply chain, by focussing on drug outlets, illicit cultivation, illicit production/manufacturing, human couriers and drug trafficking networks. There were 158 officials deployed nationally, with Gauteng (34) having the highest number of personnel, followed by KZN (25). There were 496 arrests made and 150 convictions in 2017/18 financial year, compared to 948 arrests in the previous financial year, with 160 convictions. The value of drugs involved amounted to R733 million. There were 54 laboratories that were dismantled, with 22 in Gauteng and 17 in KZN.

The development of a national integrated strategy for SANEB in order for it to function optimally with a multi-disciplinary approach in addressing the drug threat was of utmost importance. It had participated in the Integrated Operation Mihadarati, hosted by Interpol in addressing the transnational drug threat impacting South Africa. The focus was on key ports of entry in all the provinces.

The DPCI was committed to the proper establishment of the NBIFCPVC and SANEB to ensure an overall reduction of illegal firearms in circulation, as well as a reduction in the supply of narcotics. The National Firearms Task Team (NFTT) would also be invaluable in effectively addressing the illegal firearms threat. The DPCI would like to reassure the Committee that their concerns and guidance would be acted upon.

Maj Gen Ledwaba said that Trafficking In Persons (TIP) was a rapidly growing global phenomenon and the second most lucrative transnational organised crime activity.TIP had been declared an operational priority by the DPCI. Since the inception of the Trafficking in Persons legislation, Act 7 of 2013 and awareness campaigns, it had enhanced the detection of such cases. There was increased interdepartmental coordination and cooperation in tackling the scourge of TIP. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2013 (Act No 7 of 2013) had come into operation on 9 August 2015. SAPS National Instruction No 4 of 2015 was intended to provide a clear direction to a member on how to render the necessary assistance and protection to trafficked victims and to investigate the offences referred to in the Act. All SAPS members were compelled to adhere to the national instruction. There had been a total of 82 cases of trafficking in persons within the DPCI. Gauteng had the highest number of cases (19), followed by North West and Free State. There were 42 arrests made and four convictions in 2017/18. There were 617 rescue missions undertaken, mostly in the Free State (247) and North West (104).

The types of exploitation included sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, smuggling, ukuthwala and organ removal. Many of the cases that were initially reported as human trafficking were later converted to human smuggling and contravention of the Immigration Act. The primary purpose of the campaigns was to prevent and combat TIP by sensitising communities, vulnerable groups and frontline law enforcement officials. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society, international organisations and other key stakeholders were participating. There was now a presentation of human trafficking modules in the organised crime investigators’ course. There were work sessions for DPCI provincial coordinators to enhance the knowledge and skills regarding the latest developments, key trends, legislative frameworks and investigative techniques to address trafficking in persons. There was now an emphasis on proactive and intelligence-led operations to better detect and prosecute offenders. There was also a focus on strengthening border controls to prevent and combat transnational human trafficking networks and cooperation with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other countries, to cripple human trafficking networks.

Maj Gen Ledwaba said the DPCI was committed in its efforts to disrupt and combat wildlife traffickers, and was holistically focused on wildlife trafficking, nationally and transnationally. This included the wildlife industry, as well as the total illicit supply chain in wildlife trafficking. The main focus area was rhino horn trafficking. The DPCI had participated in several national and international initiatives in combating wildlife trafficking in an integrated approach. It had developed new practical standard operational procedures to address traffickers at key point areas, with the focus on the OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA). There was currently one registered project and five major investigations. Coordination was conducted with all provinces with regard to wildlife trafficking operations, statistics and training. There were currently seven national and six transnational steering and coordinating committees that the Hawks attended. New standard operational procedures (SOPs), had been developed, formulated and implemented with regard to ports of entry and exit. The DPCI had extended its transnational approach and combating efforts to the regional and international law enforcement arena. It was continuing to collaborate strategically with neighbouring countries and consumer states, to support South Africa in combating the threat of national and transnational criminal syndicates involved in the illegal wildlife trade.

Discussion

Ms M Morutoa (ANC) said it was disturbing to hear about child trafficking getting out of control, and the age of the victims was also very young. The reality was that South Africa’s borders were porous and that was why this scourge of human trafficking continued to escalate. Police members were not doing enough to protect women and children in the country, and the abuse and senseless killing of women continued on a daily basis. Were women being protected from those who were dirty minded? It seemed like police members from all ranks were not helping them. What was happening? Why were old delapidated houses not being dismantled? Why were police officers failing women in this manner? There were churches that were springing up all over the country, and they were often controlled by foreigners, and police members seemed not to be doing anything about these churches. It was sad to witness cases where criminals were given bail, despite killing children. There were cases of children that were forced to become wives as young as 12 years old and this was tantamount to murder, as those children were likely to die once they fell pregnant.

Ms Morutoa asked what had to be done to ensure that there was action taken by police members to arrest the criminals terrorising our communities. Maybe the children of police members should be abused by criminals before concrete action was taken. Communities were reluctant to cooperate with the police in identifying the criminals because of the lack of action that was being taken to convict them. The fact was that these culprits were known in the communities. Some children were being trafficked to China, but the DPCI and SAPS was failing the country. The only solution for parents was now to declare war in order for these senseless killings of their children to stop. Which schedule was being used to charge those found guilty of human and child trafficking?

Ms P Bhengu-Kombe (ANC) said it would be essential for the SAPS to focus specifically on child abuse and human trafficking, as these were on the increase in the country. It was shocking to hear about the abuse of children in Engcobo and there were even cases where children were being denied an opportunity to attend school. The Committee should be briefed on the instrument that was being used to detect corrupt activities by DPCI members. Was there a way of monitoring SAPS officials to prevent them from practicing corrupt activities? It was unclear if the DPCI was working with banks to deal with illicit financial flows.

The Chairperson wanted an update on the finalisation of the structure of the DPCI, as this was affecting the operation of the organisation. The Committee should be briefed on the reason why there had been only four convictions for human trafficking, as this was extremely low. It had been reported that SAPS and Hawks members had been arrested for collusion on rhino poaching. What was being done to prevent this?

Ms Molebatsi requested an assurance from the DPCI that the victims of criminals were being protected in South Africa. The Committee should be provided with a timeline for the finalisation of the structure of the two specialised units. Were the cases of ukuthwala being probed?

Mr Maake said that the Committee should be briefed further on the Swaziland judgment that had allowed a person to pay a compensation for a transgression instead of facing arrest. What was the meaning of etching negative and etching positive, as mentioned in the DPCI presentation?

Ms M Mmola (ANC) asked about the number of people convicted for human trafficking in the country. It would be important to hear about the timeline for the finalisation and putting in place of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between SAPS and the Vietnamese police service.

Ms Mabija said that the statistics that had been presented proved that our borders were porous, and that people were doing whatever they liked, including bringing in drugs and rhino horns. The priority was for South Africans to feel safe and secure, and the first step in this was securing our borders. The country was letting things happen by having porous borders, and this was something that would need to be addressed. There was a need for South Africans to conduct introspection to see what their priorities were. The DPCI and SAPS were trying to ensure that the country was safe and secure, but there was also a need to ensure the borders were kept secured.

The Chairperson commented that the Border Management Agency Bill was currently in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP),and it was aimed at dealing exactly with the concerns that had been raised on border control.

Mr Ramatlakane appreciated the presentation, as it provided a sense that some of the efforts were yielding positive results. The involvement of police members in some of the criminal activities was a worrying factor, especially those involving rhino poaching. Was there any vetting process that was being undertaken on those officials policing rhino poaching? The Committee had had a discussion with the National Commissioner on the lack of capacity and coordination to deal decisively with rhino poaching. There was also a debate on the need to get better tools of the trade to deal with rhino poaching.

In relation to the case of former Colonel Chris Prinsloo, was this making reference to the Project Impi that was aimed at dealing with gangsterism and the proliferation of illegal firearms stolen or lost in police stations? There was an indication of a lack of commitment from SAPS senior officials, as they seemed reluctant to see the project getting off the ground. There was a worrying untold story about the Impi Project in the Western Cape. The police in the Western Cape had managed to disintegrate the team that was probing Colonel Prinsloo on gun trafficking. Why did there seem to be an attempt to bring the project down in the Western Cape? Had it been possible to recover all the dockets that were investigated at station and cluster level? Which dockets had attracted the DPCI the most? There was complicity and involvement of SAPS officials in an attempt to prevent the arrest of gang leaders and criminals, especially in the Western Cape. There was a clear indication of complicity among some SAPS officials, and this was a major concern of the Committee. The Impi Project was aimed at dealing with gang leaders and the proliferation of illegal firearms in Western Cape, but this had not been a success. The project was supposed to have run at the station level and then been integrated at the operational level. There seemed to be an indication that it would now be the responsibility of the DPCI. Was this now the case?

Mr Shaik-Emam said the low level of convictions was a concern, considering the number of arrests that were being made. There was an indication that foreigners were involved in child trafficking and there should be a plan in place on how to deal with this problem. Had there been any arrests of SAPS officials for collusion and corruption with criminals at ports of entry? SAPS did not have a mechanism in place to track down children who had been kidnapped or were victims of human trafficking. There should be a concerted effort to deal with the officials who allowed the entrance and exit of children who were victims of human trafficking. It was shocking how easy it was to enter or exit the country through corruption and collusion with officials at ports of entry.

The reality was that one could not expect the SAPS to deal with crime alone, as there was a need to deal with social conditions conducive for criminal activities. The success rate of the DPCI and SAPS was extremely low, and it seemed like there was no interaction and coordination between these two organisations. Working in isolation was not going to bring about an impact in dealing criminals in the country.

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) wanted to know about the origin of the firearms that had been recovered by the DPCI. Why had semi-automatic firearms been categorized? What was the difference between human trafficking and human smuggling? What was the proportion of the load of cases detected so far for domestic and national trafficking? Was there an overlap between the syndicates and their offences, or were they segmented, with a focus on different sections. It was unclear if there were any identified communities who were sources of human trafficking, or if this was considered as generalised risk factor that was being taken into consideration.

Ms Kohler Barnard said that the presentation had not provided any timelines for the operationalisation and capacitation of the national firearms task team, or whether the integrated provincial firearm task team was already operational as from 31 October 2017. What was the origin of the firearms that had been seized? Who was smuggling these firearms? What were the successes in recovering the firearms? The presentation did not speak about the capacitation of SANEB provincially to deal with the smuggling of illegal cigarettes. On the poaching and killing of rhinos, poachers often found alternative areas, like in KwaZulu-Natal, to target rhinos considering the focus given to Kruger National Park. Who was responsible for the targeting of the key points that were being targeted for rhino poaching? The Committee should be provided with a copy of the national integrated strategy combat wildlife trafficking. The success of the Swaziland judgment, where people were sentenced for killing rhinos and then compelled to pay restitution, was commendable. The DPCI should perhaps have a dialogue with the NPA on exactly that case.  

Ms Molebatsi said that there was a common saying that there were police officers in the payroll of drug dealers. What was the DPCI’s take on that? A truck had been intercepted while carrying a load of girls in the North West during the era of Lt Gen Phahlane. What was the update on that? The Committee should be provided with an update on the story of drug trafficking in the Northern Cape that led to the burning of buildings.

DPCI’s response

Lt Gen Matakata responded that the issue of porous borders was a contributing factor to crimes related to human and drug trafficking. This was indeed a challenge for the DPCI, and it needed to be addressed collectively. There had been successes in arresting members of SAPS, the DPCI and officials from Department of Home Affairs, who were involved in corrupt practices. There were over 20 officials from the Department of Home Affairs in Mpumalanga who had been arrested. The Border Management Agency Bill would need to deal with the issue of porous borders. A substantial number of police officials in Limpopo had also been arrested. These officials were working as syndicates and were the ones facilitating the movement of people and other illegal commodities across the borders.

The DPCI was investigating the cases of churches that were being used covertly by criminals to facilitate crime, and this was currently being dealt with. There was still an investigation into the situation at Engcobo, and it was not only focused on the killing of the five SAPS members, but also other elements of criminality in that church. This was involving the Department of Social Development to ensure the success of the investigation.

The Impi Project had been transferred from SAPS to the DPCI -- a decision that was taken by the previous acting National Commissioner, Lt Gen Mothiba. The transfer of the project was probably because of the lack of support for the project from the provincial commissioner in Western Cape. There had been no stated reasons for the transfer of the project, which had been transferred to the DPCI with its team, as it was extremely difficult to start the project without those involved from the beginning. The DPCI hoped to see this project take off in order to recover the stolen or lost firearms. The provincial commissioner in the Western Cape could respond to some of the questions that had been asked by Members, especially those in relation to the project.

Maj Gen Ledwaba said that there were seven cases of ukuthwala in the Eastern Cape. There were 72 cases of human smuggling in Limpopo and North West, and these had later been converted to human trafficking, including children.

The negative etching of a firearm was where the serial number could not be found, or the origin of the firearm could not be traced. The DPCI could not divulge any information at the moment on the origin of the firearms recovered, as this was sensitive information for now.

The issue of the allocation of DPCI members per province kept on coming back, and this was because of the retirement of some of the officials and the structure that had not been established. Posts for the full complement of the structure had been advertised. There was a pending case involving a shooting range and a gun dealer, and the licence of the dealer had been revoked.

The low conviction rate was a matter of concern, and perhaps there was a need to invite either the Department of Justice or the NPA to address this matter, as it was not in the hands of the DPCI.

The Chairperson asked whether the discrepancy between the arrests and convictions was because of further questions being asked by the NPA, as this was a concern of the Committee.

Maj Gen Ledwaba responded the NPA usually said that a magistrate was independent and therefore there was a need to maintain that level of independence. There was also a limit to the number of trials that could be dealt with in a day, and NPA would be in a better position to explain how many of these cases were taken a day. It could also explain to the Committee the issue of shortage of resources, but this was not the terrain of the DPCI to comment on. There was a long process that involved investigation, including the forensic side, and this was also contributing to the delays in these cases. There was also a need to fire the firearms for ballistic testing, or conduct analysis of the drugs, for example, and this was part of the long process involved. There was correspondence and agreement with the NPA that cases of the DPCI should be prioritised.
           
Mr Maake asked if there was any specific reason for not mentioning the origin of the recovered firearms. Why was this information not being divulged to the Committee?

Maj Lt Gen Ledwaba said that there was still an ongoing investigation and therefore it was sensitive to share the information at this stage. The information could be shared with the Committee at a later stage, when the investigation had been concluded.

Brigadier Ebrahim Kadwa, Section Head: Operations, Organised Crime, DPCI, said that the DPCI was starting to respond to concerns that had been flagged by Members. Human trafficking was under the spotlight and it would be important to highlight that the DPCI was dealing with a multifaceted and transnational organised crime activity due to the fact that this was a global phenomenon that was very lucrative. Internationally, 79% of victims of human trafficking were women and children, and the other percentage of victims included boys and girls. The latest report in Africa stated that more young boys were involved in human trafficking than girls, and most of them would be involved in the sex trade and forced labour practices. The concerns raised by Members were very important, and the presentation by the DPCI had mentioned that there was a need for all government departments and society to be involved in dealing with human trafficking. The DPCI had set up an infrastructure and governance model through having a human trafficking coordinator, so that all the cases that were brought to the attention of Hawks could be dealt with and a response provided. There was always action taken with all the cases that were reported to DPCI.

Brig Kadwa added that there were provincial human trafficking coordinators, and this was one of the issues that were included in the national instruction. These coordinators were responsible for reporting to the DPCI.

The Chairperson asked about the number of cases of human trafficking where victims did not get any update or response on the progress of the case. How many cases of human trafficking were currently with DPCI, and how many with detectives?

Brig Kadwa responded that there was readily available information on the number of cases of human trafficking within the DPCI and those with the detectives. There were some cases that were dealt with in other specialised environments, like the sexual offences unit.

Ms Kohler Barnard commented that all cases of human trafficking should come to one unit. One could not have a situation where these cases were being reported to different units. There should be a standard operating procedure.

Brig Kadwa replied that according to the national instruction, all cases had to be reported to one unit and brought to the attention of the coordinators, but this was not happening because of the dysfunctional structures. There was a problem of limited capacity, and therefore it would be impossible for the Hawks to undertake all the investigations into human trafficking. It was not possible at the moment to have one unit reporting to the DPCI. It had brought forward all the provincial coordinators to improve the national compliance and to ensure better operationalisation of the legislation. These were the processes that it was working on to improve the situation. This was something that required more action and more work, and the whole of government should also play a role in fighting human trafficking. The issue of porous borders was indeed problematic, and it was compounded by the corruption of officials at the ports of entry. There was a lot of corruption on South Africa’s borders, and there were officials involved in human smuggling.

Brig Kadwa said human trafficking had three important elements. Firstly, there was the recruitment phase; the second phase was looking at how this was done and the final stage was the exploitation. The exploitation usually happened in a lucrative environment or area, whether it was for sex or labour. Human smuggling was where an illegal migrant would procure the services of a human smuggling group to be able to cross a national boundary. Human trafficking could happen in the same town, where the victim could be moved from a place of familiarity to a place of unfamiliarity, and not necessarily crossing boundaries. The issue of human trafficking required dedicated prosecutors and passionate people who were able to implement the interventions. There was commitment from the DPCI to tackle cases of human trafficking. Human trafficking was not a unique South African situation but it was a worldwide trend. The latest United Nations (UN) report also spoke about the interceptions versus the convictions, and this was a concern internationally.

Brig Kadwa responded that people who were involved in these cases were familiar with the origin of their victims, and therefore knew the family and location to get the victim. The concerns of Members were valid, and the DPCI would play a specific role in this regard. There may be a need to do some introspection on how to accelerate the outcomes in the legislation and what Members intended in the draft national policy framework. The other challenge of dealing with human trafficking was that victims or survivors often did not report the perpetrators in fear of reprisal against their families, because the recruiters were often known socially.

Fear of reprisal was among the issues leading to the failure of reporting perpetrators of human trafficking. The issue of retribution was a reality and although there was witness protection programme, this was still not helpful. South Africa was regarded as a source and transit for human trafficking. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act was the main Act that was being used to charge suspects for human trafficking. The DPCI would also use the Immigration Act and therefore there could be a host of charges, with each one dependent on the circumstances.

There were a number of reasons why a conviction could take a number of years, but there was no way to confine a conviction to a financial year because of the technicalities involved in these cases, with suspects coming with well-equipped lawyers to employ defensive tactics to get the cases postponed. The DPCI was working with the Departments of Social Development and Home Affairs to deal with all the issues, and assisting victims by providing them with temporary permits where necessary. Section 300 of the Criminal Procedure Act made provision for the compensation of the victims where losses were suffered financially. One could also explore the asset forfeiture approach, where there could be an order for the payment of the victim to compensate for the loss or damage suffered, and the Committee could exploit those provisions similar to Swaziland.

Lt Gen Matakata said that the strategic direction that had been presented to the Committee was looking into the issue of dismantling of dilapidated buildings as a means of taking back the cities. This work would be between the municipalities and the police, and work was being done in this regard.

The DPCI was working with the banks with regard to money that was coming into the country, including working with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

Colonel Johan Jooste, Commander: Endangered Species; DPCI; said there was a law in South Africa that called for compensation for an animal victim that had been killed or dehorned. South Africa was a custodian of rhinos in the world, so most of the smuggling of rhinos was in South Africa. The compensation was being paid in some cases. A rhino DNA programme had been developed by the University of Pretoria, and this initiative had been taken further -- not just for management, but also in terms of the forensic approach to it. The perpetrators that were being prosecuted were all South Africans in syndicates involved in wildlife poaching.

Lt Gen Matakata said the DPCI had been given feedback by SAPS’s human resource (HR) management that there had been an engagement with the labour unions regarding the police structure, including the DPCI structure. SAPS was supposed to meet again with the unions in order to finalise the matter, and there was hope that it would be completed by next week. The Committee would be provided with the copy of the national integrated strategy to combat wildlife trafficking, and the national instruction informing members how to go about dealing with human trafficking.

Brig Kadwa said that organised crime was complex and complicated by nature, and therefore there were always going to be links to the service provided to the shadow economy of organised crime. There was transnational and domestic trafficking, and ukuthwala would fall under domestic trafficking, where young girls were moved from rural areas to urban areas within the same province or another province to be involved in the sex industry. The transnational trafficking was mainly dealing with commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour, and there were push and pull factors that would move South Africa to be a viable place for this. There was a lot of trafficking from Thailand, Eastern Europe and China, and this was where there was exploitation of political asylum and refugee status. There were people from South Asia -- India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – who were being sold in South Africa..

The Chairperson concluded that it would be important to have coordination between the DPCI and SAPS entities regarding the relevant information and statistics on human smuggling. The Committee noted the progress made in other priority areas, and there was hope that the structure of the DPCI would be finalised in the next engagement, as this was hampering the progress of the organisation. The Committee would need to communicate with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development in order to have a joint meeting by next week.

The meeting was adjourned.
    

 

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: