Analysis

Anwa Dramat will be remembered for being on the right side of history

By Marianne Thamm 13 April 2019
Caption
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - 30 November 2009: Anwa Dramat, Head of the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI) at a press conference in Pretoria on Monday, 30 November 2009 (Photo by Gallo Images/Foto24/Theana Calitz)

There are a number exceptional South Africans who fought back in the heat of the State Capture battle which slashed and burned through the NPA, the DPCI SAPS and SARS between 2010 and 2017. On Friday 12 April, the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture heard testimony about one of them, Anwa Dramat.

There were a few targets in the moving cross-hairs of the hunters: Robert McBride, Matthews Sesoko, Innocent Kuba, Anwa Dramat, Shadrack Sibiya, Pravin Gordhan, Ivan Pillay, Oupa Magashula, Glynis Breytenbach, Johan Booysen, Johann Van Loggerenberg, Mcebisi Jonas.

The persecution was relentless and came from all flanks – spearheaded in some instances by the unaccountable and completely opaque Crime Intelligence division of the SAPS.

The Zondo Commission on Friday 12 April heard how the entire 2010 “Zimbabwe rendition case”, aimed at removing the independently-minded Anwar Dramat as head of the DPCI, had been cooked up behind the “Blue Curtain” in the murky bowels of CI – then headed by Richard Mdluli.

Willing soldiers in the trenches included NPA shock troops Shaun Abrahams, Nomgcobo Jiba, Torie Pretorius, acting head of the Priority Crimes Litigation Unit, Sello Maema (also of the PCLU), and Lawrence Mrwebi, Special Director of Public Prosecutions.

They were supported by DPCI super troopers, Berning Ntlemeza and the Crimes Against the State unit (CATS) led by Brigadier Nyameka Xaba. Xaba had been appointed to head the CATS by Dramat’s successor, Berning Ntlemeza, who was illegally appointed (after acting in the position since December 2014) in 2015 by then Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko.

The CATS unit, established in line the UN Protocols, was brought to life to deal with outside threats of terrorism, sedition as well as keeping tabs on possible coup plotters.

But under Xaba’s leadership CATS was repurposed to target those regarded as political opponents or obstacles to the state capture project.

The DPCI in 2019 is a wan relative of what once was the Directorate for Special Operations (Scorpions), an independent investigative unit which fell under the NPA until the ANC, at the party’s 52nd National Conference in 2007 in Polokwane, agreed unanimously to take it out back and shoot it.

The Scorpions, after showing spectacular results, simply had to go.

The party was going to elect as leader a man with over 783 counts of corruption, fraud and racketeering hovering over him like a bad odour.

It was at Polokwane that President Thabo Mbeki met his Waterloo, outsmarted by Jacob Zuma who swept to victory as ANC President on a tide of support some described as a “Zunami”.

Dramat was appointed by now President Jacob Zuma as the first national head of the DPCI soon afterwards in 2009. In 2014 Dramat called for the centralisation of the investigation of several cases involving high-profile politically exposed persons, including the probe into Nkandla.

At the time, the investigation into unauthorised upgrades to Zuma’s private home had been gathering dust on the desk of Lieutenant-General Vinesh Moonoo, head of SAPS detective services.

Back when Dramat was appointed to head the DPCI, no one thought twice when this sentence appeared in the GCIS publication Vuku’uzenzela in July 2009:

Strict selection processes have been put into place to screen staff for the new unit. Applicants must be approved by the Police’s Crime Intelligence Division before being appointed.”

From the start, Crime Intelligence had a say about who could and could not be appointed to the DPCI, the country’s most powerful anti-corruption fighting body. On Thursday Advocate Pretorius set out to the Zondo Commission its abysmal prosecution rate since then.

McBride, testifying at the Zondo commission, spoke of ten days in March 2016 when the CATS pounced on several fronts.

The unit went big-time for McBride, IPID investigators Matthews Sesoko and Innocent Kuba as well as Pravin Gordhan, Ivan Pillay and Oupa Magashula on various SARS matters including the “rogue unit” as well as Pillay’s early pension payout.

The NPA, under the guidance of prosecutor Torie Pretorius and Sello Maema decided to prosecute McBride, Sesoko and Kuba on charges of fraud and defeating the ends of justice. Pretorius too oversaw the Gordhan, Pillay and Magasula prosecution, later withdrawn as were the charges against McBride and Sesoko and Kuba provisionally.

Unlike McBride, Dramat bowed out of the fight early.

On Christmas eve 2016 in fact.

Two days before that Nhleko had communicated with Dramat informing the HAWKS head that he was being placed on a provisional suspension.

Merry Christmas, comrade.

Many thought when Dramat later accepted a settlement that he had given up the fight, that he had been bullied into submission, that he was too cowardly to challenge the persecutors.

But a letter by Dramat to Nhleko on 24 December 2016, serves to preserve, for posterity, the remarkable events that unfolded around the Hawks head at the time. It now forms a permanent record of the Zondo Commission.

We reprint here large excerpts of Dramat’s letter as it offers an insight into his motives for leaving as well as his outrage and disgust at what he knew was happening around him:

I have, for several months, reflected very carefully on the issues that have unfolded in front of me. I have consulted legal representatives and I have been advised of my legal remedies.

I respectfully point out that the tactical ‘backpedaling’ from the initial notice and the current reliance on the Public Service Act and Public Services Regulations and SMS Handbook is a clear indication to me that no matter what steps I take to defend my position, a decision had already been made, from the outset, to remove me from my position.

Having seen our country enter into a democratic phase, I felt that I could contribute in a meaningful way and continue to develop the principles which I fought and for which I was imprisoned.

My appointment as the Head of the DPCI, I perceived at the time, was based on my credentials, my level of expertise and the fact that I respectfully believe that I have always acted with integrity in the manner in which I deal with people and investigations.

No doubt you are aware that I recently called for certain case dockets involving very influential persons to be brought or alternatively centralised under one investigative arm and this has clearly caused massive resentment towards me.

I can unequivocally point out that I am not willing to compromise the principles that I have always believed in. I am not willing to be ‘agreeable’ or ‘compliant’ in so far as I would then be acting contrary to my own moral principles and, also contrary to the position in which I was appointed.

The so-called Zimbabwean rendition investigation is a smoke-screen. There are no facts whatsoever that indicate that at any given time I have acted illegally or unlawfully. Most certainly there has never been evidence whatsoever that I have, in any way, interfered with any potential witness or attempted to jeopardise the investigation against me during the past four years.

I wish to reserve my rights to fully vindicate myself against all those who have sought to tarnish my name and reputation I do not wish to engage with those involved in this correspondence, in so far as that is reserved for another forum, if necessary,

I therefore deny, with respect that the Notice of Precautionary Suspension is legal, valid or regular. It fact, it is totally irregular and constitutionally invalid.

I am also aware that in the next two months there will be a drive to remove certain investigations that fell under my ‘watch’, re-allocate certain cases and that unfortunately, certain sensitive investigations may even be closed down. This is something I will have to live with.

I note with interest that a two month period has been set to hold an ‘enquiry’. I can honestly say that the investigation into the ‘Zimbabwean rendition ‘ case, has run for a very lengthy period of time and till to date there has been no evidence whatsoever. It is clear that I am being pushed out.

After due consideration, with specific reference to the background alluded to above, I am willing to submit a request to vacate office by applying to the National Commissioner to approve early retirement in terms of section 35 of the Act. Quite clearly there is a pre-condition that the unlawful precautionary suspension be uplifted without me having to approach the court to do so.

I therefore require that should we enter into a joint consensus-seeking meeting as a matter of urgency to prevent any instability within the DPCI”

McBride continues his testimony on Monday. Expect more. Much more. DM

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