First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Johan Booysen confirms the nightmare reign of Berning N...

South Africa


Johan Booysen confirms the nightmare reign of Berning Ntlemeza

Former head of the KZN Hawks Major-General Johan Booysen during a press conference on November 16, 2017 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier)

Berning Ntlemeza’s arrival as head of the Hawks on Christmas Eve 2014 marked the day that 'all hell' would break loose at this key crime-fighting institution.

If the criminal justice system is not working then we will not have a country.” – Justice Raymond Zondo

The disgraced former Hawks boss would among other things, seize control of key posts, hijack the promotion system and seemingly scream and shout or belittle staff he believed had contact with either his predecessor, Anwar Dramat, and later, the KwaZulu-Natal head, Johan Booysen, who is currently testifying at the State Capture Commission.

Ntlemeza who was allegedly instrumental in pushing for Dramat to be charged over what became known as the renditions scandal, was parachuted into the position in what appears to have been a reward for having aided Dramat’s premature ousting.

Booysen confirmed earlier testimony by Robert McBride, former head of the Independent Police Complaint Directorate, about how Ntlemeza had allegedly leaned on a former IPID investigator, Innocent Khuba, to rush through a recommendation to charge Dramat prior to the official investigation being concluded – and with prosecutors having had full knowledge of this.

Mere days after assuming office, Ntlemeza arrived in Durban and called Booysen up for an urgent meeting – scheduled for the morning of New Year’s Day.

Booysen cancelled his party plans so he could be up and ready for Ntlemeza’s 7am call.

Ntlemeza’s urgent business, it turned out, was to get a report from Booysen for equity figures for members under his command, ostensibly, because there were “too many Indians”.

But in reality, Booysen knew this was nonsense and that Ntlemeza really tried to extract a report out of him about why he had travelled to Cape Town where Dramat was based at the time.

Booysen had initially submitted a request to travel to Cape Town but then booked it at his own expense because he didn’t want to alert Ntlemeza that he wanted to meet with Dramat.

If he found out anyone had contact with Dramat, he would go berserk.,” Booysen said.

While Dramat had been suspended, I applied to fly to Cape Town. I wanted to see him. I wanted to tell him, him hang in there, that the country needs him.”

But with Ntlemeza having played such an instrumental role in ousting Dramat, Booysen said he conveniently disregarded a request to file a report about his trip there.

He told the Commission that Ntlemeza had a few very immediate missions upon his arrival at the Hawks, among those was a meeting with the then provincial police commissioner, Mmamonnye Ngobeni, who had been a suspect in on of the cases handled by Booysen’s unit.

She allegedly had criminal suspect Thoshan Pandy fund a surprise birthday party for her husband – while Booysen’s team was investigating him in connection with a R60-million dirty SAPS deal.

Booysen testified that in addition to a clique of “captured” prosecutors, there was clearly a coordinated strategy between the NPA and the SAPS to get rid of Dramat who had been the driving force behind a number of investigations including the looting of the secret services slush fund.

Another urgent matter was to remove the docket relating to the abuse of the Crime Intelligence Secret Services account from a Cape Town Hawks member, Colonel Kobus Roelofse.

That investigation, implicated among others, former Crime Intelligence boss, Richard Mdluli.

There was an “unholy alliance” between Ntlemeza and Mdluli, to get rid of Dramat.

That is in effect, he said, what gave rise to the rendition case that ultimately led to Dramat leaving the Hawks.

Commission chairman, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, remarked that based on both Booysen and McBride’s testimony, some very worrying information has come to light about problems within law enforcement.

I hope more people will come forward to tell the country what has been happening.

If the system is not working then we will not have a country,” Zondo said.

We have to find out exactly what happened so this Commission can come up with recommendations to ensure those things never happen again.

Said Booysen: “In SAPS, if anyone becomes a whistle-blower, you are dead in the water, you get suspended, prosecuted. They will not leave you alone.”

In this regard, Booysen said promotions are dished out through a farcical system.

It is very rare that the right candidate gets the job. It’s not a race thing. There are many good black officers who get overlooked because they prefer to do the right thing.

I sat on those panels, I have seen it.”

Booysen also told the Commission about a brief visit to the Gupta residence in 2015 after he had been called for a meeting by former President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane.

The young Zuma was the complainant in an ongoing criminal case and used to call Booysen, seemingly for an update although two such meetings seemingly had nothing to do with the actual case.

Booysen testified about the Saxonwold meeting saying he had arrived at the compound where he was introduced to Tony Gupta who appeared to have some knowledge that he had been shortlisted for the post as head of the Hawks following Ntlemeza’s departure triggered by court proceedings.

Booysen’s testimony continues. DM


Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted