Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo stands accused of using his influence and state resources to settle a personal score with an ex-mistress by having her arrested for extortion.
WhatsApp messages between the deputy minister and the 30-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, suggest that it was Masondo, 44, who first offered money because he "wanted peace" and the fighting between them to stop.
The messages dating from August also show the woman dismissing the offer of money several times.
It appears from the messages that the fight was mainly about the woman accusing the deputy minister of bullying her to have an abortion and her wanting the two families to discuss damages.
The termination was evidently traumatic and the woman received counselling.
Masondo, who is married and a father of two, did not want his relatives involved, or for the woman to contact his wife.
President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed Masondo as deputy minister in May this year. He is also head of the ANC's OR Tambo School of Leadership at Luthuli House.
The messages show that the woman was relentless. As the dispute escalated, she bombarded him with messages, including about dreams of his and his wife's death.
Masondo appears to have viewed this as intimidation and harassment.
The woman has also complained to the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) and to the police about the gynaecologist whom the covert couple consulted to manage the termination. The gynaecologist did not want to comment, pending any HPCSA investigation.
It is not clear when exactly Masondo went to the police and on what basis he laid charges, but his complaint seems to have received swift attention, resulting in the Hawks launching a sting operation.
The woman was arrested outside her home in northern Johannesburg on Saturday, August 17, when she accepted a bag of cash from men she understood were representing Masondo, but were actually undercover cops.
The Hawks, formally the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, is mandated to target "serious organised crime, serious commercial crime and serious corruption". The woman claims at least eight police officers were involved in her case - four during her arrest and four others at the police station to interview her.
She spent the weekend behind bars and told amaBhungane: "David having me ... thrown in jail for nothing was one of the most violent acts I have experienced... It will stay with me for the rest of my life."
Meanwhile, the deputy minister's lawyer, Victor Nkhwashu, said in an emailed statement that he had advised Masondo not to comment as the police investigation was ongoing.
Nkhwashu said, however, that the woman's allegations were "opportunistic, malicious and spurious" and "a knee-jerk reaction also aimed at tarnishing and portraying our client as a violent person against women through the media in order to divert the public attention from the charges of extortion, intimidation and harassment against her".
After the woman's weekend behind bars, she was released without appearing before a magistrate.
Her lawyer, Rudi Krause, said in an emailed statement that on Monday, August 19, "the senior public prosecutor declined to prosecute and referred the matter back to the investigating officer for purposes of further investigation...""In light of the tenuous nature of the allegations, the decision by the Senior Public Prosecutor is not surprising. Our client denies the allegations made by ... Masondo, which allegations are false."
Krause said that his client "was involved in a romantic relationship with Masondo, which relationship became emotionally and physically abusive".
AmaBhungane has seen amateur cellphone footage of the arrest taken from inside the complex where the woman lives. She was waiting on the street outside.
She is seen picking up something from the back seat of a black car, after which she is arrested by a policewoman posing as a pedestrian.
A policeman in plain clothes arrives to give back-up and the three are picked up by a white car.
The woman said the amount was R40 000 which she had negotiated with Masondo after he failed to deliver the R300 000 which she had calculated to cover three years' worth of psychological counselling.
She said she tried to explain to the police officers that the money was from her boyfriend and offered them the chance to look at her phone to show them the conversations with Masondo, but to no avail.
When she arrived at a police station she was taken into a room at the back where four other officers told her to count the money and compare the serial numbers of bank notes to those in photographs that they showed her.
She said she was made to sign a piece of paper and then was offered a phone to inform her family of her arrest.
It is not clear what informed the Hawks' decision to dedicate police time and resources to a sting operation on a case such as this.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu said the sting was authorised by a director of public prosecutions "as per strict procedures" and that "we do not take sides, we simply investigate the facts".
He would not give details, saying that doing so would compromise the investigation.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the NPA gave instructions for further investigations, after which the investigating officer should return the docket to the NPA for a decision.
Krause, the woman's lawyer, said he would provide the investigating officer with a comprehensive statement and "supporting evidence setting forth our client's version, a statement the police were not interested in immediately after her arrest".
The R300 000 'extortion'
According to WhatsApp messages on August 3, 2019 at 10:11, Masondo told the woman: "I was worried (still worried) about the continuous harassment of my family. And I was pleading that I can pay you whatever amount is required to stop this fight."
The woman took offence and responded at 10:19: "Had I knew that you wanted to insult me I wouldn't have unblocked you. It will be a full on war. You don't know my family... My family is concerned for my wellbeing. Talking over damages is the start, they want to deal with this, so I no longer deal with you. But you wouldn't understand that."
Masondo replied: "Just give me the price. I need peace please. I honestly do."
She replied: "Go fuck yourself."
Masondo: "I don't need war."She: "You will get it."Masondo was most concerned about involving his family: "I'm pleading once more: leave my family out this. They have nothing to do with this."She: "Families in our culture have always sought dialogue in situations like this. Today it's harassment?"
Masondo: "Let's us not abuse culture. This is harassment."
At 11:03, Masondo asked the woman to tell him "exactly what to do make peace, I am willing to take any price to make peace".
She: "You care for nobody but yourself. Continue to dig your own hole. Dig it and bury yourself in it... Why are you so obsessed with money? I don't want your money. I'm doing fine."
At 11:33, the woman wrote: "You were paying for my psychological care, and you abruptly stopped. Even when people fight, they don't stop doing what they committed to doing. It was dear wrong showed your lack of remorse."
According to the woman, Masondo was paying for her counselling sessions after she suffered severe depression because of the abortion.
At 11:41, Masondo asked for an overall price to settle the matter once and for all.
Masondo: "You say I stopped making payment for what we agreed upon. So I'm simply saying just give me the overall figure so that I can pay."
And at 12:12: "I don't want to pay perpetually. I need an overall figure so that I pay once and for all."
She calculated R8 000 per month over three years for the counselling.
Masondo: "I want peace. So I will do it. Do me favour. Help me with the math. I can sort it out by Thursday ( half or full)."
The woman said over three years this amounted to "almost 300k" and added: "Only if you want sir."
Masondo: "Okay. I will do it. Guarantee one thing: will this fight stop?"
She replied "OK" and Masondo said: "Thanks. We will sort out the logistics."
On August 6 at 20:39, Masondo texted her, saying: "Hi... The funders will only sort it out tomorrow. They said Thursday was the best day for them. But they will try to deliver tomorrow. I'm confident that they will. I'm sorry about this delay."
It appears that the deputy minister failed to deliver the R300 000 and the two continued bickering over days, with the woman insulting Masondo and his wife after he failed to apologise for the harassment the woman had allegedly endured.
Masondo dragged out the agreed payment, claiming to be unable to raise the money - even a much smaller amount of R20 000 that the woman said she needed urgently.
This enraged the woman, but also raised her suspicions. On August 11, she wrote to him: "It's like you want me to incriminate myself to say that I want money to stop 'harassing', that's extortion. I won't do that... You only want to set some trap for me. I'm not stupid, David."
In the end, the woman said, she agreed verbally to accept R40 000 as a down payment on the R300 000.
The woman said that the affair started last year in May and she found out that she was pregnant in November.
She said she informed Masondo, but he ignored her. In mid-December, she went to a doctor friend of Masondo's to confirm the pregnancy and asked him to inform the deputy minister.
In her complaint to the HPCSA, which amaBhungane has seen, the woman stated: "In January 2019, Masondo eventually took responsibility for the pregnancy but pressurised me to have an abortion... I was too scared to disappoint him."
She detailed how they made an appointment with a Pretoria gynaecologist.
The couple went to his surgery on January 16, where he consulted with her, examined her and prescribed recognised abortion pills for her to take at home.
She described her trauma: "When the fetus was expelled and I was bleeding heavily, I begged Masondo to take me to the hospital nearby... because I felt scared for my life. He refused."
She stated that, instead, Masondo took her back to the doctor where the termination was completed.
She also accused the gynaecologist of not informing her about the procedure: "I would not have taken the tablets at home, had I known that the fetus may be expelled. This caused me severe trauma which I still suffer to this day. I was unaware that the baby had developed so significantly. I was devastated by this."
HPCSA spokesperson Daphney Chuma confirmed the complaint, but declined to comment further as the matter remained under investigation.
The gynaecologist declined to comment, citing doctor-patient confidentiality and that he had not received formal notification of the HPCSA complaint.
Last week, the woman also went to the police to lay a charge against the doctor.