Court bid to review appointment of Hawks head

2016-03-17 11:29
Berning Ntlemeza (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Berning Ntlemeza (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Hawks head Major General Berning Ntlemeza is facing another challenge - this time an application by the Helen Suzman Foundation and lobby group Freedom Under Law for him to stop work pending a review into his fitness to hold office.

In a joint statement, the two groups said the application to stop Ntlemeza from discharging any functions was filed on Wednesday in the High Court in Pretoria, at the same time as an application for a judicial review of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko's appointment of Ntlemeza as head of the Hawks was made.

The application comes as the Hawks and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan have it out over 27 questions they want the minister to answer over a secret investigative unit within the SA Revenue Services, which purportedly operated while Gordhan was Sars commissioner.

The Hawks have been led by Ntlemeza since his predecessor Anwa Dramat's suspension in December 2014 and resignation in 2015 during an investigation into the alleged illegal deportation of a group of Zimbabweans wanted for the murder of a policeman in that country.

Ntlemeza was acting head of the Hawks, formally called the police's Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI), after Dramat's departure and was made permanent in September 2015.

'Damning judicial findings'

But the two organisations are opposed to him occupying that position on the grounds of "damning judicial findings impugning his integrity, honesty and fitness and propriety to hold such office".

After Ntlemeza suspended Major-General Johan Booysen, head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal, Booysen went to court to have the suspension overturned.

In that case in November 2015, Judge Anton Van Zyl set aside the suspension and found that Ntlemeza had ignored key evidence in the bid to suspend Booysen and that there was no indication he had considered material details Booysen submitted to defend himself against allegations of racketeering.

In another judgment in the High Court in Pretoria in March 2015, Judge Elias Matojane had to deal with an application by Ntelemeza to overturn the lifting of the suspension of former Gauteng Hawks boss Shadrack Sibiya, also implicated in the rendition of the Zimbabweans.

In that judgment, News24 reported that Matojane found that Ntlemeza had withheld information and made false statements under oath while seeking leave to appeal the court's ruling overturning Sibiya's suspension in March.

Sibiya was eventually fired in August last year after a disciplinary inquiry relating to the renditions.

Nhleko has already publicly defended Ntlemeza, saying he was the best of five candidates interviewed for the job.

'Unfit for office'  

The HSF and FUL contend that the minister did not properly consider the judicial findings.

"Moreover, in light of such findings, Major General Ntlemeza could never have properly been appointed and is unfit for office."

The application is expected to be heard on April 5.

Approached for comment, Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi referred News24 to the police minister's spokesperson, because Nhleko had appointed him.

Nhleko's spokesperson Musa Zondi was not immediately available to comment.

The Congress of the People backed the action of the two groups, saying it had laid a charge of perjury against Ntlemeza relating to the Matojane judgment, on Wednesday.

"The government has acted disgracefully. It is duty bound to uphold and defend the Constitution, not to destroy it. Moreover, it is legally and morally bound to give effect to judgments and pronouncements of the courts of our land. This did not happen," Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said in a statement.

Read more on:    helen suzman foundation  |  freedom under law  |  hawks  |  berning ntlemeza

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