Yesterday General Richard Mdluli, former head of Crime Intelligence in the SAPS, was convicted in the High Court, Johannesburg on counts of kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, assault and intimidation.
This follows a series of legal challenges, over several years, by Freedom Under Law to decisions which would have given Gen Mdluli impunity and kept him in his crucial post. The charges against Gen Mdluli relating to kidnapping and assault of Oupa Ramogiba had initially been withdrawn by prosecutors Chauke and Jiba, while fraud and corruption charges were withdrawn by prosecutor Mrwebi. Justice Makgoba initially granted Freedom Under Law an urgent order directing that Gen Mdluli stand down from his position pending the determination of a review of that decision.
In doing so, the Court stressed that a constitutional democracy could not tolerate a situation in which one of the country’s key crimefighters continued to perform his daily functions while himself facing serious allegations of criminality. That Gen Mdluli had not been finally convicted of these grave crimes was not the issue.
In due course Freedom Under Law’s review of the prosecutors’ decision too was upheld.
Gen Mdluli’s trial ensued, and has extended over a lengthy period, culminating in yesterday’s conviction by Justice Mokgatlheng.
While it is unfortunate that the charges of fraud and corruption were not reinstated by the NPA, it is an important vindication of the rule of law that one of South Africa’s most senior police officers has been held accountable for some of the crimes he has committed.
It is a cause for reflection that had Freedom Under Law, one of a group of civil society watchdogs active in this way, not challenged the decisions to withdraw charges and to keep Gen Mdluli at his desk, his impunity would have been assured.