Paul O’Sullivan: Why I’m now optimistic SA will win the war against crime

LONDON — Paul O’Sullivan was on board a plane at the Moscow airport when he got the news that Cyril Ramaphosa had been voted president of the ANC. The ace forensic investigator celebrated all the way to London, and was still upbeat when we chatted this morning. Because he is confident that after a decade of drift, SA’s war against crime will soon turn. O’Sullivan was Ramaphosa’s training officer after the man of the moment became a Police Reservist two decades back (there’s a newspaper clip recording it embedded in the article). From that experience and through their interactions since, O’Sullivan has little doubt SA’s new leader is a man of integrity who will take the right steps to roll back the criminal scourge: starting with appointing an appropriate head of the National Prosecuting Authority and then sweeping through a criminal justice system and National Intelligence structure “captured” by the Zuptoids. Hope springs. – Alec Hogg

Well, it’s a warm welcome to Paul O’Sullivan on a day that many South Africans are celebrating: the victory of Cyril Ramaphosa in the ANC Elective Conference. Paul, are you celebrating?

Well, I did that last night, Alec. I got off the flight at Moscow at 9pm and I had to wait 20 minutes for a taxi. When I eventually got to where I was going, I finished off what I had started on the plane. The day before yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and I said to him, “I now understand why my children are so excited on Christmas Eve because really, they don’t know what Santa Claus is going to bring them the next day.” My friend knew that I was talking about the ANC Elective Conference and he said to me, “Yes, but you know there’s a better example. The father-to-be whose first child is about to be born (and he doesn’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl) …he’s standing outside the maternity ward hoping for a boy.” I got an SMS just as they were closing the doors on the plane from Moscow and it just said, very simply, “It’s a boy!”


You can imagine I really enjoyed the flight from Moscow to London, despite it being four hours in a cramped seat.

Well, it has been celebrated by most South Africans. From your perspective though, the Criminal Justice System: we’ve spoken a lot over the last few years about the capturing of the Criminal Justice System – the way that you’ve worked to get it uncaptured. With the appointment of Cyril Ramaphosa as the President of the ANC (and one would expect, of the country), what kind of impact is that going to have?

Well Alec, I spent the best part of 5/6/7 years (maybe even longer) working with the Criminal Justice System and it’s not just these dirty politicians. You have to remember that we have a lot of criminals in South Africa as well. The criminals have actually started the process of capturing the Criminal Justice System. The underworld has started that process, probably about ten years ago. It was ripe for plucking in fact, when the Zuptoids came along and saw, and all they did was they kind of joined forces with the underworld and completed the operation of capturing the Criminal Justice System. That included the Hawks, the Police, the National Prosecuting Authority, and the so-called intelligence agencies who have been captured (perhaps) long before that.

What was left then was a South Africa, which had an impotent Criminal Justice System where the crime lords were ruling the country and that’s effectively, what happened. Now with Cyril Ramaphosa coming on the scene, he’s a man of integrity. Of course he’s also got some baggage. You know, they all say there’s nobody that doesn’t have a little bit of baggage. Even myself I suppose, I have some here and there going back into history, but what we have here is a situation where Cyril Ramaphosa, he doesn’t need to rob the country blind. He has sufficient wealth I suppose and maybe he’s going to do the right thing. I was just looking at some of my old scrapbooks and it was 20 years ago that I was training Cyril Ramaphosa to be a police reservist.

What was he like as a reservist? Was he good at it?

Well, strangely enough there as a company then called JCI, I don’t know if you remember it. It was Johannesburg Consolidated Investments and he was involved with that. Of course, we all know what happened to JCI with or without an involvement from Cyril, but Cyril was engaged in business by that stage. After the first elections he decided not to become a parliamentarian and he went into business, which was probably a smart move at the time because everybody else was eager to become a politician. Now, Cyril and I first met at Wandies Place in Soweto long before the first elections. In fact, at that stage we had the what do they call it, the World Trade Centre talks, you know.


The talks between – yes, Roelf Meyer and his counterpart, I suppose was Cyril Ramaphosa and on the sideshows, we had people like Eugene Terreblanche and others, who acted as kind of a damper, but at the end of the day we got a constitution, we got a democratic South Africa and people like Cyril played a very important part. We were having a chat, him and myself and Meyer Kahn what was the CEO of South African Breweries, and the Commissioner of Police then was George Fivaz. And George Fivaz said, “You know, we need to get more people involved in policing” and lo and behold Kahn became so-called CEO, if you like of the police. I don’t think that kind of worked out the way they thought it would and Cyril Ramaphosa and his party decided to become a police reservist and at the time I was the head lecturer at the reservist training centre in Houghton, so I had to training.I was shocked.

Cyril Ramaphosa reacts during the 54th national conference of the ANC in Johannesburg on December 16, 2017. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Meyer Kahn went on to be Chairman of SABMiller he was the CEO. Why do you think it didn’t work out because it could be a very interesting point for business people who now want to put their hands up and perhaps help in government or in state departments?

Well, I’ve seen that following. If these people want to help, what they really need to do, rather than impose their will on these agencies, is just to say, “Well listen, what help can I provide and is there something that you need that you don’t currently have?” We managed to get businesses in the centre of Johannesburg to sponsor refurbishment of the charge office, as it was called in those days, of the Johannesburg Central Police Station, which was so dilapidated it was dreadful and we managed to get them to do other things which were beneficial to the policing community. So, there’s always somewhere that businesses can help, but one of the ways that they can help Alec, and I don’t like blowing my own trumpet, but we need donations at Forensics for Justice. Forensics for Justice in the last two years have taken the fight to clean up the criminal justice system back to the leaders of the criminal justice system and in the process, we’ve been arrested.

We’ve been criminally charged. Sarah-Jane Trent was dragged away from the office one evening and we’ve suffered enormous reprobation, but more importantly, we’ve had to spend a lot of money and I think in the last two years we’ve spent over R5m. We’ve had some very nice people donating to Forensics for Justice, but if I tell you the donations to date are less than R300 000, it starts to give you an idea that I’ve been carrying the costs myself together with AfriForum. AfriForum have also put their hands in their pockets, but I mean at the end of the day we do need some support and businesses can step forward. What I’d like to see now is a complete clean-up. We’ve already seen it started actually in the Hawks and in the police, but the impervious barricade to the National Prosecuting Authority, I think will finally start to be broken down now.

We’ll see Shaun the Sheep. They’ll be put out to grass or I’d like to see him being put somewhere else, you know with orange uniform, but let’s assume he’s put out to grass, then we need to go after the people that Sean the sheep has surrounded himself with. Because those people know full well what’s been going on and they’ve been part of the problem, not part of the solution. We’ve identified and we’ve written to them and told them, “By the way, you guys, you’re going to have to face the music now”.

Interesting time in the country’s history now, Paul, but how do you think it’s all going to develop given that Shaun Abrahams, the NPA Chief is going to be replaced, (already the courts have said Ramaphosa can do that replacement)? That does seem to be almost as big, from a criminal justice perspective, of a breakthrough as Cyril’s own election.

It’s crucial. We’ve just seen the appointment of the Commissioner of Police and I for one, I’m solid behind this person. John Sithole has a good background in policing and I did the investigations into him at least two years ago because I wanted to make sure he was clean before I shared certain information with him and he came up spotless. Now he’s been appointed Chief of Police. Do you know, that’s a seven-year appointment? Head of the National Prosecuting Authority is a five-year appointment in terms of the act. So, whoever gets appointed now you’re stuck with him for five years unless you have to buy him off or something like that. So, I’m hoping that there’ll be a proper due diligence done on the person that replaces Shaun the Sheep.

Chopped. High court rules NPA head Shaun Abrahams must vacate position. More magic available at

His appointment was unlawful. I think it’s common cause now that he should never have been appointed in the first place and I don’t think he should even go back into any other position within the NPA because he’s been proven to be useless in fact and we’ve made a formal report against him to the General Council of the Bar. Now the real General Council of the Bart turns slowly, but eventually I’m hoping that they will find that has acted in a manner which has brought the profession of advocates into disrepute and then he will be unemployed, which he should be, but I think my concern is all the other people that he’s brought in and promoted. In our opinion it amounts to corruption in itself because gratification as defined in the Act is not just about being paid money to do things, but being given a position in life or being given promotion.

Now Shaun Abrahams himself was promoted to the National Director of Public Prosecutions from an acting position at the so-called Priority Crimes Investigation Unit. He then appointed Tory Pretorius as the Acting Head of the Priority Crimes Investigation Unity, which he’s been the acting head for two years. Now why don’t they fill these positions instead of having acting heads? Because if they have acting heads they can move them along quickly if they don’t do their bidding and there are a number of other prosecutors who are not acting heads but are actually directors of public prosecution in South Africa who are completely unfit for purpose and we’ve identified them. They stood by and watched what’s been going on and now the time must come for them to be cleaned out.

qnThe stakes were very high then at the ANC conference because the watershed moment has been reached and it, certainly from where you’re sitting, the correct decisions have been made, but can we now see further changes within the system, a replacement of many of those who, as you say, have been appointed by the Zuptoid or those who have been implicated by criminal activity and you think specifically about the Scorpions, is it possible that they might be resuscitated, do they need to be?

Well, you know History will determine, I suppose what has to happen and what doesn’t happen. The Hawks, if they are properly structured and properly formulated, whether they call themselves the Scorpions or whatever, they’re currently called the Hawks, if they’re properly formulated and they’re not reporting to the Commissioner of Police. At the moment it’s very blurred. They’re joined at the hip with the South African Police Service and the problem is, that you see all these things going on which shouldn’t have gone on and I’m not just talking about myself being dragged off a plane, but look at what happened to Pravin Gordhan and look at what happened with Glynnis Breytenbach, look at what happened with Robert McBride. You know, when you see all these things going on, it’s crystal clear that the Hawks were captured. At the moment, there’s no head of Hawks.

I’m just saying, the appointment of that position, because at the end of the day if you have a good leader, the Hawks will be fantastic. If they’re led properly they can do what they’re supposed to do, but what’s more of concern to me is what happens to the ANC now because if the ANC don’t clean up their act, we’re going to see a repeat of this in five or ten years’ time and that’s not good enough. We cannot ever tolerate a situation like this again. If the punishments that are handed out now in the next two to three years and the court cases that will take place – in other words, if a tornado comes along and cleans these badly build structures up completely we won‘t see it again except, my concern is, if the ANC is still in power. Now there’s a problem there. If the birth that was announced last night was a girl, I think we all agree that there would be no ANC in power after 2019, but it wasn’t a girl, it was a boy.

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So, my concern now is, is he going to be able to bring in new leadership, younger people because we can’t have an ANC run by 75-year olds with one foot in the grave, we have to have an ANC run by young people. You know, I saw in Austria now, despite his political leanings, we have a 31 year old Head of State. We need to bring some young blood in and that young blood needs to be trained properly. They have to have ethics and moral standing and moral fibre because if they don’t, we’re going to see a repeat of this in five or ten years. Nelson Mandela, God bless his soul, never realised what would happen after his death, but I think they had an inkling that Zuma getting into power was going to be a problem.

Paul, just from a broader perspective, many South Africans are really sick and tired of the high crime rate. Is it possible now, is it to extrapolate from the election of Cyril Ramaphosa, given as you shared that story about him even being a police reservist, is it possible that we can start hoping that something will be done about the crime rate and something concrete will be done to put the criminals where they belong?

South African Police Service (SAPS)

Yes, I’m very positive Alec. People keep telling me, “You’ve got an Irish passport, you’re so lucky” you know, but I’ve been in South Africa for 30 years, it’s my home. I’ve spend more than half my life there, it’s where I belong, it’s where my roots are and my family are and my friends of course. Now at the end of the day, the problem with crime in South Africa is not insurmountable, it can be fixed, but it cannot be fixed when you have a Chief of Police who’s buying so-called forensic torches for R300 000 from a company in Australia that only costs R7000. So, when you have all that money, if we can take the billions of Rands that have been squandered and the criminal justice system and now start channelling that money into real forensic services and catching the criminals – you know the sad part, Alec, these guys were buying women’s makeup brushes.

Squirrel hair brushes are used for fingerprint lifting. So, you go to a crime scene and you lift the fingerprint by dusting it with a special dust and you use a squirrel hair brush for that. To save money, these criminals who were working with Phahlane, were supplying these types of brushes you buy from Edgars for putting on your makeup. The problem with that, was they were dusting the fingerprints at the crime scene and when they were putting the dust on, they were actually removing the fingerprints. Well, all that will come to a stop now and what we will see now, is what I call effective detective services and if we have effective detective services, we can change the clear up rate of murder from 10% to 90% and then we’ll see things happening. You know, I heard just the other day, I was in Moscow at the time when I saw it on the news, there was a fire in Manchester and a woman and three children were burnt to death in the fire.

Read also: Paul O’Sullivan on war with Phahlane: ‘I’ll expose these criminals with badges’

Within 24 hours the police had arrested three people and the day after that, two of them had pleaded guilty in court. So, within 48 hours of the crime being committed two people were pleading guilty in court. Now that’s not an impossible situation for South Africa and it can be achieved, we just need good leadership in the police. I have absolutely no doubt that Cyril Ramaphosa will very quickly instil good leadership, not only in the police, but in the Hawks and in the criminal justice system per se and then we need to clean up our intelligence services because the intelligence services should’ve been spending their time looking out for these foreign transnational crime syndicates and instead of doing so, they’ve been protecting dirty criminals like the Zuptoids in South Africa.

So, one of my favourite sayings, ‘hope springs’, is not being too optimistic right now?

No, absolutely. You know the good thing is, sometimes we have to go down low before we realise we’re at rock-bottom, we were at the rock-bottom. Apart from the ravages of Apartheid, South Africa has never been at a lower place than it was last week. The court’s dishing out orders left, right and centre and this man, this leader of the ANC, the ex-leader of the ANC gets up in his opening address at Nasrec and tells everybody, “The ANC must stop using the courts”. Meanwhile, he’s the most prolific court person in the whole of the ANC. He’s run off to court every ten minutes to keep himself out of jail. I think when he goes to prison, the future of the country will look even better than it does now, but right now for Christmas, I would say all South Africans should have a bounce in their step and look after themselves at Christmas because the criminals haven’t been stopped yet, but they will be stopped soon.