Dramat makes early retirement offer

In a letter leaked to the Sunday Times, Dramat said he had made powerful enemies by investigating influential people. (Gallo)

In a letter leaked to the Sunday Times, Dramat said he had made powerful enemies by investigating influential people. (Gallo)

An unnamed source told the Sunday Times newspaper that Dramat had refused to hand over Hawks files on matters such as Nkandla, a R60-million fraud case in KwaZulu-Natal and an investigation that involved Northern Cape ANC chairperson John Block to National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega.

Phiyega had asked Dramat for the files earlier this month, it reported.

In the letter leaked to the newspaper, Dramat said he had made powerful enemies by investigating influential people.

“I’m also aware that in the next two months there will be a drive to remove certain investigations that fell under my watch, relocate certain cases and that, unfortunately, certain sensitive investigations may even be closed down,” he was quoted as saying.

He added that his request for certain case dockets “involving very influential persons” to be centralised under one investigative arm had caused resentment towards him.

Dramat reportedly gave Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko until January 5 to respond.

Legality of suspension
Questions were raised last week about whether Dramat’s suspension was legal, opening the possibility for the matter to head to court. 

While the Democratic Alliance (DA) questioned the legality of the suspension, the ministry of police said it acted legally and that the provisions of the police act dealing with the suspension were “new” and “untested”.

A spokesperson for Nhleko said the minister sought legal advice before issuing Dramat with notice of his provisional suspension.

Nhleko’s spokesperson, Musa Zondi, said the minister also gave Dramat an opportunity to give reasons why he should not be suspended before provisionally suspending him for 60 days.

Rendition of Zim suspects
Dramat’s suspension is believed to be related to his alleged involvement in the rendition of Zimbabwean suspects but there are suspicions that it was politically motivated.

Dramat had been informed by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) last year that it was investigating criminal charges against him relating to the allegations.

It was reported that numerous rendition survivors had stepped forward and accused Dramat of being involved in the apprehension and deportation of Zimbabwe’s most wanted criminals.

Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said the allegations were investigated and Ipid handed over its report to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) earlier this year. It was still waiting for the NPA’s findings.

The Mail & Guardian understands Dramat sought legal counsel on his suspension but he declined to comment on this on Wednesday. He also would not comment on whether he would challenge his suspension. 

Central to the legality of Dramat’s suspension is a Constitutional Court ruling, handed down on November 27, that set aside provisions in the South African Police Service (SAPS) Ammendment Act, which gave the minister sole discretion on whether or not to suspend the head of the Hawks.

The ruling resulted from a court challenge brought by Hugh Glenister, which sought to challenge whether the SAPS Act gave the Hawks sufficient independence from the executive.

‘Adequate’ independence
The Court stated that the Hawks must have “adequate” independence.

What remains of the relevant section is that the minister must notify Parliament and a committee of the National Assembly must consider the pending suspension before the suspension can legally occur.

The gist of the ruling appears to have been to give Parliament a more meaningful role in the suspension of the head of the Hawks. 

Zondi said there had been some discussion among this within the ministry before Dramat was suspended but the ruling remained “untested”. 

The interpretation of the relevant sections would therefore need to be tested in a court of law, Zondi said.
But for now, the minister had been advised that he had acted legally, Zondi added.

Acted illegally
DA spokesperson on police, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, said on Wednesday that Nhleko had acted illegally.

“The Constitutional Court judgment stated that the Minister may not suspend the head of the Hawks. Section 17 CA was declared ‘inconsistent with the Constitution and are declared invalid and deleted from the date of this order’.

“It is quite obviously a political ploy to remove General Dramat, put an acting head in his position, and instruct that person to fire Lieutenant General Johan Booysen, the KwaZulu-Natal head of the Hawks.

“Booysen has been instrumental in conducting various investigations into six MECs and the KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner,” Kohler-Barnard said.

The section also requires that a commission of inquiry, headed by a judge or retired judge, must be instituted to consider allegations against the head of the Hawks.

Zondi said this had not yet been instituted and said the minister would decide whether this step was appropriate after considering his own fact-finding mission. This exercise would not amount to an official inquiry, Zondi said.

But he added that Dramat’s suspension was necessary to restore stability to the Hawks because the allegations against Dramat could no longer go uninterrogated. He said Dramat’s suspension did not amount to a finding of guilt.

Grave concern
Meanwhile, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) said it noted the suspension with “grave concern”.

“This comes hot on the heels of the HSF’s recent successful intervention, and the ruling by the Constitutional Court, relating to the independence of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation [Hawks].”

The Foundation said the suspension was “troubling” because it could destabilise the administration of justice and the fight against corruption.

“We await further communication from the minister of police and the commissioner of police, and trust that greater clarity will be forthcoming,” said HSF director, Francis Antonie.

Meanwhile, the South African Press Association reported that Major General Berning Ntlemeza will be acting head of the Hawks following Dramat’s suspension, the police ministry confirmed. – Additional reporting by Sapa

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics.  Read more from Sarah Evans

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