Hawks solicit phone records in Mkhwebane’s extortion case

The Hawks have applied for a court order to obtain cellphone records of ANC MPs implicated in allegations of bribery and extortion involving suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

The cellphone records include audio recordings, phone calls, SMSes and WhatsApp messages.

Mkhwebane’s husband, David Skosana, opened a case of extortion against ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina, parliamentary impeachment committee chairperson Richard Dyantyi, deceased former minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.

Skosana alleged that Joemat-Pettersson, who he recorded on two occasions during private meetings, named Majodina and Dyantyi as her collaborators in a scheme to extort money from him to make the impeachment process against his wife “go away”.

The impeachment process was initiated by parliament to probe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office.

On Thursday, the head of the elite crime-fighting unit, Lt Gen Godfrey Lebeya, told the media that investigations into the allegations were at a stage where the Hawks, together with the National Prosecuting Authority, had approached the court to access the necessary phone records.

In accordance with Section 205 of the Criminal Procedure Act, a judge can issue a subpoena allowing police to obtain records from the relevant internet or mobile telecommunications service providers.

Swift action on the case is believed to be the government’s intention to send a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated, especially when alleged offenders are legislators.

Lebeya said the Gauteng branch of the Hawks was handling the investigation into the corruption allegations, and certain steps were already underway.

“There are certain investigations that we are pursuing. We worked with the prosecutors, and we have approached the court to get certain authorities to do certain things, but I will not be unpacking how we conduct our investigation, but we are working on that.”

He continued: “So you can understand that this is a new matter, and we have gone to systematically search for the truth, which is the science that we deploy when we conduct the investigation. That matter is receiving attention.”

Asked whether the evidence was useful, Lebeya said it was too early to draw a conclusion. “Because we leave no stone unturned, it means that for each aspect that is brought to our attention, we will be able to check and see if the information is credible.”

In a follow-up on Friday, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Thandi Mbambo told Sunday World that the court had been approached for a Section 205 application, under which investigators would be allowed to obtain records of communication between the affected parties from the relevant internet or mobile service providers.

On Tuesday, Mkhwebane held a media briefing in Johannesburg where she publicly released the WhatsApp messages between Skosana and Joemat-Pettersson, who before her sudden passing, a day after Sunday World published copies of the WhatsApp messages, responded to questions on the same mobile number attributed to her.

Following Mkhwebane’s briefing, media reports suggested that at least one of the audio recordings used as evidence unwittingly demonstrated Dyantyi’s innocence.

This referred to questions about the parliamentary impeachment committee having a proper quorum.

The speaker in the audio recording, named Joemat-Pettersson, had advised Skosana to request an audit of attendance to delay the inquiry and assured him that Dyantyi would comply.

But during committee proceedings on March 30, Dyantyi rejected the proposal. However, the report failed to mention that, according to the WhatsApp messages, the alleged bribery deal had by then almost collapsed. A meeting had been arranged for March 26 at the Airport Grand Hotel in Boksburg.

By midday, Skosana had not communicated his availability, and the sender, Joemat-Pettersson, requested confirmation. Instead, Skosana responded with a question: “Good afternoon, are you and the other one ready at what time?” The sender responded, “The other one is waiting for me. Let’s meet and discuss.”

He responded: “So I’m meeting you alone?” The sender confirmed the same, to which he protested: “But I thought one of them will be with you. I think you should ask one of them to be present or we can then meet in Cape Town where one of them will be present.”

The sender did not immediately respond, and 15 minutes later, Skosana texted two question marks. The sender asked: “How must I get them there if they have conditions?” Skosana responded: “I’m ready for the conditions.” The sender was not convinced and replied: “I think I must rather leave this.”

The records showed that there was another attempt on March 27 to resuscitate the deal with a meeting scheduled at the Anew Hotel Capital Pretoria, but the sender informed Skosana that “the other two are still in Gauteng until tomorrow but they do not want to meet with you yet”.

When Skosana appeared to be giving up, the sender requested an “urgent” meeting in Gauteng on March 31, a day after Dyantyi dismissed the committee attendance audit request.

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