17 June 2024 | 01:17 PM

Suzman Foundation challenges Dramat’s suspension in court

Key Takeaways

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) on Friday launched an urgent application to overturn the suspension of Hawks commander Lieutenant General Anwa Dramat – as well as the appointment of the acting head, Major General Berning Ntlemeza.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko purported to suspend Dramat on December 23 2014 and appointed Ntlemeza to act in his stead.

In papers filed at the Pretoria high court, HSF Director Francis Antonie argued: “The minister’s decisions are clearly unlawful. The minister does not have the power to suspend the national head in the manner in which he has purported to do.”

Antonie cited the Constitutional Court ruling of November 27 last year which deleted a section of the SA Police Service (SAPS) act giving the minister suspension powers.

The application attaches a copy of the minister’s notice of intention to suspend, dated December 10 2014, which makes it clear that initially Nhleko sought to suspend the Hawks boss in terms of the clauses deleted by the Constitutional Court.

When Dramat’s attorney’s wrote back and pointed this out, Nhleko then purported to carry out the suspension in terms of the normal SAPS employment regulations.

Antonie argues that this is clearly wrong and unlawful, given the specific protections accorded to the head of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) – commonly known as the Hawks – by the legislation and the Constitutional Court ruling.

Arguing for the matter to be heard as early as next Thursday, Antonie states: “Every day that Lt Gen Dramat is out of office poses an unacceptable risk to the work and operation of the DPCI…”

“This matter is not about a defence of Lt Gen Dramat specifically.This case entails the core Constitutional question: do we live in a society where our government can, by effectively bypassing the requirements laid down by law for the lawful suspension of the national head of the DPCI, control who is to lead one of South Africa’s most important crime-fighting units? If the answer is no — and it must be no — then the protection of the rule of law requires prompt and clear action from the Court.” he said.

Rendition of Zimbabwean criminal suspects

Correspondence attached to the court papers makes it clear that Dramat’s alleged involvement in the so-called rendition of Zimbabwean criminal suspects from South Africa to Zimbabwe is the basis for the minister’s action.

The Independent Police Investigating Directorate (Ipid) launched a probe of the allegations and submitted a docket and recommendations to the minister and the national director of public prosecutions in March last year.

It is understood that the report exonerated Dramat, but neither the Ipid nor the minister not the NDPP have been prepared to disclose the report.

Dramat’s lawyers wrote back to the minister on December 12 stating: “Lt-Gen Dramat never authorised or sanctioned co-operation or kidnapping of any of the Zimbabwean nationals referred to in the Ipid correspondence.”

His lawyers note: “What has alarmed us in the above so-called IPID investigation is that it has already come to the attention of Lt-Gen Dramat that certain witnesses had been told that unless they incriminate Dramat, they would be of no value to the investigator.”

“It was further submitted in the statement that the DPCI was at the time (and still is) tasked and seized with very sensitive and high profile investigations and that the timing of the then IPID investigation and the current contemplated suspension is clearly a ‘smear campaign’ to derail any investigations or arrests that the DPCI is in the process of conducting.” they said.

Antonie argues: “The rationale for the suspension and appointment decision… is all the more concerning having regard to the fact that the minister has been aware of the allegations against Lt Gen Dramat since at least 2011… and the minister was in possession of the Ipid report since at least March 2014.”

“Yet, it is only in December 2014, many months later, on the eve of the annual holidays, that the minister saw fit to take any of the steps which he has now purported to take.”

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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Buyeleni Sibanyoni and Sam Sole

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