In September 2020, Richard Mdluli, former head of Crime Intelligence in the SAPS, was sentenced in the High Court, Johannesburg to an effective five years imprisonment for counts of kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grevious bodily harm, assault and intimidation.
His conviction and sentencing follow a series of legal challenges over several years by Freedom Under Law to decisions which would have given Mdluli impunity and kept him in his crucial post.
The charges against him (with other charges of fraud and corruption) had initially been withdrawn by senior prosecutors in the NPA, Nomgcobo Jiba and Andrew Chauke. In 2012 Judge Makgoba granted Freedom Under Law an urgent order directing that 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 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 to withdraw charges too was upheld.
Mdluli’s trial ensued, and has extended over a lengthy period, culminating the September 2020 sentencing by Justice Mokgoatlheng.
In November 2020, Mdluli will appear in the Pretoria High Court to finally face charges of fraud and corruption relating to the Crime Intelligence slush fund.
His sentencing for offences relating to the kidnapping and assault of Oupa Ramogibe in 1999 is an important vindication of the rule of law in that one of South Africa’s most senior police officers has finally 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 former Mdluli at his desk, his impunity would have been assured.