Hawks in turmoil

2015-01-11 15:00

So the police’s elite Hawks unit is in chaos.

Its head, Anwa Dramat, has been suspended; its Gauteng boss Shadrack Sibiya’s job is also on the line, along with that of KwaZulu-Natal head Johan Booysen; and the unit’s new acting head, Major General Benny Ntlemeza, is a firm ally of former police crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

This, in short, is very bad news.

But why, dear reader, should you care about the inner turmoil at the unit?

Firstly, it is responsible for investigating matters involving serious corruption, organised crime and high-profile murder cases.

Any disruption in the unit sets these cases back because the police officers investigating them become distracted and worry more about the safety of their jobs.

But there’s another reason. Since he arrived in his new job, Ntlemeza, who is only supposed to be acting for 60 days, has begun a destabilisation programme of his own.

The man, who informed his new subordinates that he was in charge “until further notice”, has begun reshuffling the heads of many of the unit’s core forums.

These include subunits – such as the anti-corruption task team, the anti-tobacco smuggling team and the unit combating illegal mining operations – the leaders of which were experts in their fields, with a wealth of institutional knowledge and experience to crack complex cases.

Two sources at the Hawks who attended a meeting with Ntlemeza and unit and forum heads on Wednesday, told City Press that Ntlemeza announced a list of names of officials he said would be taking command of those forums.

Those known to be close to Dramat were shifted aside.

Only time will tell whether Ntlemeza’s appointees are up to their new jobs, but we should all be concerned about the loss of expertise in critical areas and the potential setback to the fight against corruption.

But back to why you should care about Ntlemeza’s closeness to Mdluli.

This week, Ntlemeza flew to Cape Town to personally collect the case file attached to the Mdluli investigation.

The case concerns what City Press has extensively reported: How Mdluli and his acolytes allegedly plundered a crime intelligence slush fund, buying expensive properties, cars and holidays for themselves and their families.

Will Ntlemeza thoroughly investigate his old ally? We don’t think so.

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