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14 December 2017 10:15 (South Africa)
South Africa

House of Cards: General Ntlemeza – the Hawks head, a one-man wrecking ball

  • Marianne Thamm
    marianne-thamm.jpg
    Marianne Thamm
  • South Africa
Photo: General Berning Ntlemeza (Lucky Nxumalo for Netwerk24)

The Pretoria High Court hearing challenging the legality of the appointment of Hawks head Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza – the man NPA head Shaun Abrahams revealed had pushed hard for charges against Finance Minster Pravin Gordhan not to be withdrawn – will continue on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a letter from Zimbabwean police to SAPS Criminal Intelligence with regard to the “Zimbabwean rendition” case and which resulted in the hounding of former Hawks head Anwa Dramat, Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya and IPID head Robert McBride offers evidence contradicting their alleged involvement. By MARIANNE THAMM.

We now know that Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza, who was hastily appointed by Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko in 2015 – an appointment now being challenged by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law – has a rather elastic interpretation of his powers as the head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI).

In October this year when Ntlemeza learnt that the NPA was withdrawing fraud charges against Gordhan, former Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and former SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula, the Lieutenant-General wrote a tetchy letter to NPA head Shaun Abrahams suggesting the decision had not been made “in good faith” and had been “based on the noise by politicians, civil society lobby groups and the media sympathetic to the accused”.

We now know, thanks to a sworn statement to IPID by accidental hero Vlok Symington, SARS deputy director of law and the man who signed off in 2009 a legal opinion – the 'Symington Memorandum' – on Pillay’s request for early retirement, that one of the Hawks officers implicated in holding Symington hostage in the SARS boardroom had confessed that the Hawks had always been in possession of the exculpatory memorandum.

But Ntlemeza, in October, and writing to Shaun Abrahams, might not have known that yet. In his communication to Abrahams, Ntlemeza expresses extreme concern about the NPA’s “prevaricating stance” and then suggests, overstepping the line, that “we think it would be improper for you as NDPP to stall or withdraw the prosecution”. Ntlemeza did not explain who it was exactly that was included in the royal “we”.

To which Abrahams, clearly keen to prove he’s nobody’s bitch, snapped back at Ntlemeza, “I find the tone of your aforementioned letter extremely disconcerting and contrary to the spirit espoused in the provision of section 41 of the Constitution” and then later, “I deem it prudent to record that the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and to carry out any necessary functions incidental thereto is constitutionally entrenched and vested in the National Prosecuting Authority.”

So basically, stop behaving like you are receiving personal extrajudicial and extraconstitutional instructions from above.

There are not many who have kinds words for Lieutenant-General Ntlemeza, which is why the HSF and FUL have challenged his appointment by Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko. Nhleko, the HSF and FUL have suggested to the court in their application to have Ntlemeza’s appointment overturned, ignoring a damning previous court decision which should have been taken into account. That as well as violating or ignoring several other procedural matters.

HSF and FUL have said that the position of head of the DPCI required a person of integrity and honesty, qualities Ntlemeza does not possess according to High Court judge Elias Matojane who, in March 2015, found that Ntlemeza lacked these with regard to his appeal against a court ruling overturning the suspension of Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya, labelling Ntlemeza “dishonest”, “lacking integrity” and “a liar”.

Sibiya, as well as former Hawks head Anwa Dramat (whom Ntlemeza replaced), were implicated in the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010 and were both investigating politically sensitive cases, so to speak, when the accusations surfaced.

IPID head Robert McBride was also illegally suspended (but later reinstated) after he was accused of altering a report exonerating Dramat and Sibiya. In November this year charges of fraud against McBride were withdrawn leading to his reinstatement now as Executive Director of IPID.

Dramat was suspended in December 2014 but the suspension was lifted a month later after the Pretoria High Court ruled the decision invalid. But Dramat resigned in April 2015 after reaching “a settlement”.

Sibiya, who has now been employed by Joburg mayor, Herman Mashaba, to head a the city’s forensic unit, was dismissed as Gauteng Hawks head in September 2015 after an “independent disciplinary inquiry” had found him guilty of misconduct in relation to the Zimbabwe rendition case.

Essentially, the entire conspiracy behind the removal of Dramat and Sibiya began to unravel when McBride’s fraud charges were dropped. McBride’s case was required in order to prop up a case against Dramat who was worked out of the system as he would have protected former KZN Hawks Head Johan Booysen who was investigating politically connected individuals including Thoshan Panday who has been linked to President Zuma’s son Edward.

Sibiya was shafted because of his handling of a kidnapping case and another with regard to tobacco smuggling. The narrative in turn loops all the way back to SARS and the  alleged “rogue unit” allegations. It was former Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay who, in 2014, publicly stated that President Zuma would have to pay tax, just like everyone else. The High Risk Investigative Unit, before it was discredited and disbanded, was investigating several highly sensitive projects involving politicians.

Daily Maverick has come into possession of a 2011 potentially exculpatory letter by Zimbabwean police to SAPS Criminal Intelligence and which seems to corroborate that the DPCI – then headed by Dramat – had nothing to do with the rendition. The NPA is in possession of the letter but has a differing opinion as to its significance or what it reveals.

The letter from Assistant Commissioner E Makodza, CID Co-ordinator Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South Provinces, addressed to “Commander Criminal Investigations”, is headed, “Letter of appreciation of good work performed by your intelligence officers”. The letter then goes on to name four constables attached to SAPS Criminal intelligence.

Makodza recaps events with regard to the investigation of a case of murder involving a senior Zimbabwean police officer in 2010 by five suspects, two of whom fled to South Africa “seeking refuge in the Diepsloot squatter camp”.

“We passed on information to the above-mentioned officers regarding the accused persons who reacted swiftly, managed to arrest the two fugitives and recovered a CZ pistol that was taken from the deceased officer in Zimbabwe.”

Dramat and Sibiya were implicated in the rendition of the two Zimbabweans but what Commissioner Makodza’s potentially exculpatory letter reveals is that neither DPCI nor Dramat or Sibiya are mentioned or named.

Daily Maverick asked the NPA whether the authority was aware of the existence of the letter and why the four constables named had not also been charged with kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice alongside Sibiya and Dramat.

Advocate Luvuyo Mfaku, NPA spokesperson, confirmed that the authority was in possession of Mokodza’s letter but was of the view that it is not exculpatory.

“In fact it confirms the illegal deportation of the five Zimbabweans. The reason why the crime intelligence officers are thanked is because they are the ones who apprehended the suspects at the request of DPCI. The reason why Crime Intelligence Officials have not been charged is because they were merely executing the request of DPCI to arrest the five Zimbabweans, it was a routine assistance to another law enforcement agency, they were under the impression that DPCI would follow correct extradition procedures,” Mfaku told Daily Maverick.

However, Commissioner Makodza’s statement that “we passed on information” – i.e. that the Zimbabwean police passed on information to SAPS Crime Intelligence – seems to contradict Advocate Mfaku’s assertion that the Hawks (and Dramat and Sibiya) requested the arrest.

Earlier this year Nhleko revealed that Ntlemeza, one of the country’s most senior policemen, had been facing several investigations since 2012. Nhleko informed Parliament that IPID was investigating charges of defeating the ends of justice and corruption lodged by Lieutenant Boitumelo Ramahlaha and involving a former Polokwane police captain Thomas Rallele, who was allegedly romantically linked to Ntlemeza’s daughter. Ntlemeza said Ramahlaha had simply ignored the charge.

Two further cases – one of perjury and one of fraud, crimen injuria and defamation of character – were opened by former KZN Hawks head General Johan Booysen against Ntlemeza.

All in all the Ministry of Police with Nhleko as its head has spent R17.2-million in public funds in an attempt to oust Dramat, Booysen, Sibya and McBride.

Nhleko also failed his legal obligations to notify Parliament (within 14 days of Ntlemeza’s appointment at a salary of R1.6-million a year) or publish, according to the Police Services Act, in the Government Gazette and submit to Parliament for approval Ntlemeza’s salary. Nhleko also did not obtain approval from Treasury.

On Wednesday Ntlemeza’s legal counsel, Advocate William Mokhari, will present arguments on behalf of the Hawks head to a full bench of the court. DM

Photo: General Berning Ntlemeza (Lucky Nxumalo for  Netwerk24)

  • Marianne Thamm
    marianne-thamm.jpg
    Marianne Thamm
  • South Africa

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