Senior police officers who were arrested this week for allegedly defrauding the crime intelligence division of R54.2-million painted themselves as victims of students that were protesting for more affordable tertiary education.
Investigative documents seen by the Mail & Guardian lifted the lid on how Khomotso Phahlane, Lieutenant Colonel Godfrey Mahwayi, Major General Maanda Obert Nemutandzhela and Major General Mankosana Agnes Makhele said the #FeesMustFall protests of 2015 and 2016 had “over stretched” resources and that police did not have a “solution to monitor the social media activities” of the students.
The documents include one dated 20 December 2016, that Mahwayi wrote in motivation for the procurement of spyware. Mahwayi is the crime intelligence division’s commander for IT support.
“The social media monitoring solution to be procured will be utilised by the analysis capacity of crime intelligence for the profiling [of] suspects. In most cases, these events are organised through social media sites due to the geographical locations of participants [the students],” Mahwayi wrote.
“Due to the fact that this matter is of extreme emergency, only two service providers for the supply of this service were identified and, due to time constraints, it is not feasible to source a third quote as there is … very limited service [providers] in this space,” Mahwayi added, motivating for a deviation from the national treasury’s procurement regulations.
In the 2007-2008 financial year, the treasury released regulations that said emergency procurement above R500 000 could only be conducted outside the competitive and publicly advertised bidding process when limited suppliers were available for a product.
“The reason for such action was required to be recorded and approved by the accounting officer,” according to a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) internal investigative note.
Phahlane, the police’s former national commissioner and the accounting officer at the time, approved a deviation request from Nemutandzhela for the “emergency” procurement. According to the investigative documents, alleged fictitious quotations were submitted by Perfect Source and Brainwave Projects.
Phahlane also faces a slew of fraud and corruption charges related to a R191-million contract to equip police vehicles with sirens, radios and lights in a case the NPA refers to as the “Blue Lights” matter.
Brainwave Projects, which trades as I-View Integrated Systems, received the supply contract after its director, Inbanathan Kistiah, allegedly used his employee, Avendra Naidoo — who purported to represent Perfect Source — to create the alleged fictitious quotations.
Both Kistiah and Naidoo were charged alongside the officers.
“Perfect Source purported to quote a R45 715 191.20 to supply Ripjar [the spyware] whereas [Brainwave] through the instrumentality of [Kistiah] quoted a price of R33 858 000,” the NPA’s internal notes say.
Naidoo’s ex-wife, whose name is known to the M&G, was Perfect Source’s sole director. Investigators claim she “neither signed nor compiled the written price quotation submitted by Perfect Source”.
The Investigating Directorate, a division of the NPA, said this week “it was far-fetched to claim a response to the protests as an emergency” because the #FeesMustFall movement began in October 2015.
In December 2016, Brainwave received a more than R1.1-million-a-month contract to supply the spyware for seven months. But, according to a document dated August 2021, Brainwave ended up pocketing more than R54.2-million from just seven invoices; the lowest of which was for around R3.6-million while the highest was for more than R8.4-million.
The approval for the deviation was conducted on 21 December 2016, and the money was paid out the following day. In November, Kistiah acknowledged to the M&G that he had received payment for the spyware he supplied.
“Remember, I am not the SAPS [South African Police Service]; I provide services. How they use those services has got nothing to do with me,” Kistiah said.
The head of the Investigating Directorate, advocate Andrea Johnson, welcomed this week’s arrests, saying this showed the directorate’s commitment to fighting corruption.
“It is also dealing with the lack of accountability, which to date has undermined the legitimacy of the law and shows that the wheels of justice are turning and impunity is no longer a given,” Johnson said.
All accused who face fraud, corruption, theft and contravention of the Public Finance Management Act were released on bail and will return to the Pretoria magistrate’s court in December.