Only parliament has the power to remove the head of the Hawks and the minister of police cannot suspend him before such a process has begun in parliament, the Pretoria High Court heard yesterday.
The Helen Suzman Foundation made these submissions as it asked the court in an urgent application to review and set aside decisions by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko to suspend Hawks head Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat and to appoint Major-General Berning Ntlemeza as acting head.
The minister opposed the application and Judge Bill Prinsloo reserved judgment.
Nhleko placed Dramat on precautionary suspension on December 23 for his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of a number of Zimbabwean nationals who were fugitives for crimes of murder and robbery in that country.
Counsel for the foundation, David Unterhalter SC, said a recent Constitutional Court judgment stated that the head of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation – known as the Hawks – should not be suspended or removed except on a finding by a committee of the National Assembly.
“If the minister was so concerned about rendition claims, why did he take so long to act?” Unterhalter said.
William Mokhari SC, for the minister, argued that the Constitutional Court judgment did not mean that the minister could not suspend the head of the Hawks outside of the parliamentary process.
He said Dramat’s suspension was correct if one considered he was governed by the provisions of the Public Service Act.
Mokhari said if the court were to set aside the decision to suspend Dramat, it did not mean that the court must reinstate Dramat because the foundation had not ask for his reinstatement.
– Ernest Mabuza