Hawks boss’s suspension invalid, judge rules.
Head of the Hawks Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat can return to work after a judgment by the high court in Pretoria yesterday. Judge Bill Prinsloo declared the decision by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko to suspend Dramat invalid and set it aside. He also set aside Nhleko’s appointment of Major-General Berning Ntlemeza as acting head of the Hawks.
The court declared the minister of police was not empowered to suspend the national head of the Hawks other than in accordance with the South African Police Service Act.
The minister was ordered to pay the costs of the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), the organisation which launched an urgent application on January 9 to challenge the legality of Nhleko’s decision to suspend Dramat on December 23.
Dramat’s suspension was linked to allegations that he was involved in the illegal rendition in 2010 of Zimbabwean nationals wanted for crimes.
The HSF’s case was based on a Constitutional Court judgment in November that struck down a provision in the South African Police Service Act that allowed the police minister to suspend the head of the Hawks, instead granting the power of disciplinary action against the Hawks head to Parliament.
The judge said the purported suspension of Dramat was not authorised by law, unconstitutional and invalid from the outset. Dramat was in law never suspended and so there was no basis for ordering his reinstatement, he said.
Prinsloo said the appointment of Ntlemeza depended for its validity on the suspension of Dramat and was consequently invalid because the legal foundation for his appointment was nonexistent.
He also dismissed the minister’s argument that had to do with a compromise offer made by Dramat.
While police ministry spokesman Musa Zondi said Nhleko would study the judgment, the director of the foundation, Francis Antonie, welcomed the judgment and said Dramat’s suspension was a violation of the law.
He said he expected Dramat to return to work soon.
“We are pleased that the rule of law has been restored and we hope the minister will act accordingly and respect the ruling,” Antonie said.
DA spokeswoman on policing Dianne Kohler Barnard also welcomed the decision and said it had always been the DA’s contention that the minister had broken the law when he suspended Dramat.
She said the minister had suspended Dramat in contravention of the Constitutional Court judgment passed in November.
“No member of the executive can ride roughshod over the constitution,” she said.