Raid on HSF deeply concerning - Zakhele Mbhele

DA MP says seven people apparently involved in robbery, timing highly suspect

Parliament needs briefing on Suzman Foundation raid

The Democratic Alliance is deeply concerned about the highly suspicious armed robbery that took place at the offices of the Helen Suzman Foundation yesterday afternoon which, according to reports, had the hallmarks of a meticulously planned and executed military-style raid. While armed crime is at high levels in South Africa and has been for several years, this robbery, given the target, raises an eyebrow.

We will be writing to law enforcement requesting a speedy investigation and that Parliament be briefed on the events that surrounding this robbery.

This robbery is concerning for three main reasons. Firstly, the timing is dubious. The robbery occurred four days after the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and Freedom Under Law launched an urgent application seeking, according to an HSF media release, to interdict Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza from exercising any power or discharging any function or duty as the head of the Hawks (the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation). This interdict would operate pending the outcome of a judicial review of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s decision to appoint Ntlemeza as Head of the Hawks.

Given Ntlemeza’s crucial position as Nhleko’s side-kick in their hitman operations against politically inconvenient or “troublesome” individuals, the success of this interdict would obviously be a major stumbling block in their ongoing efforts to protect President Jacob Zuma and his allies or friends from independent investigations.

Secondly, the manner in which the robbery was reported to have been executed is glaringly suspect. Its precision and orchestration seem to be well above the pay-grade of run-of-the-mill criminal syndicates that underpin and propagate most property crime, especially in light of the relatively low value of the assets taken, namely computers and document. In addition, a total of seven individuals are said to have been involved in this robbery. The loot taken would not ordinarily warrant such an intensive investment of skills and effort for a standard robbery.

Thirdly and perhaps most revealing of all, when a policeman from Hillbrow police station arrived to take a statement at the HSF offices, he refused to do so once he was told about the work of the Foundation and the court cases it has been involved been in, saying that this circumstance was above him and he would have to take it to his superiors.

This is very irregular because, whatever that means, the correct procedure is for a statement to be taken by the local police station after a crime is committed and from there, a case can be transferred or escalated for further investigation if it is deemed to be of priority status or a specialised nature. The actions of this officer are reflective of the stalling and stone-walling that has become the trademark of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko as the political head of the police service.

With today being Human Rights Day, it is an occasion to remember that the struggle for true freedom and the entrenching of constitutional democracy is a never-ending one. This brazen raid on an activist civic organisation that works to defend our Bill of Rights and is named after one of the heroes of anti-apartheid efforts that culminated in the same Bill of Rights is another signal that we can never be complacent in guarding against threats to the human rights we are commemorating.

Statement issued by Zakhele Mbhele, DA Shadow Minister of Police, 21 March 2016