1. Who is suspended?
While it isn’t clear that all the suspensions are linked, there have been moves to suspend four senior Hawks officials. One official, national Hawks boss Anwa Dramat, was put on precautionary suspension. The head of the Hawks in Gauteng, Shadrack Sibiya, and another senior official, Leslie Maluleke, were given notices of intention to suspend them. They have to respond to these letters with reasons why they should not be suspended. The fourth official, KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen, was also placed on suspension but this was temporarily overturned in court.
The supposed basis for the moves against Dramat, Sibiya and Maluleke is the 2010 deportation of four Zimbabweans. Allegations that the suspects were deported illegally surfaced. An investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) was launched. In Booysen’s case, the surface-level allegation is that he oversaw the functioning of a rogue police unit in KwaZulu-Natal that allegedly operated as a covert hit squad.
3. Did they do it?
It isn’t clear, but there are strong suspicions that they did not. Ipid will not make the report public and the police will not disclose what the report said. But sources say the report cleared the officials of the allegations. The report was handed to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in early 2014 and no decision to prosecute has been taken so far. This means that for almost a year the police have known the results of the Ipid investigation without taking action.
The Mail & Guardian reported last week that the head of Ipid, Robert McBride, confirmed at a meeting where Dramat’s legal team was present, that the Ipid investigation cleared him. This week City Press cited a police source confirming that McBride supports Dramat. But the source said the Ipid report did not clear Maluleke. McBride is not commenting publicly.
A board of inquiry, chaired by a judge, cleared Booysen of the allegations against him.
4. What do the officials say?
The Hawks officials say they are being targeted because of high profile investigations that they were pursuing. Dramat makes this claim in a letter that was leaked. Booysen made the same claim in court when he succeeded in stopping his suspension from going ahead.
Maluleke has until the end of Tuesday to provide the police minister with reasons why he should not be suspended, so we don’t know his version yet. Sibiya got an interim order from the Labour Court which will buy him some time to respond to the police commissioner. Sibiya says the police are not following the proper procedures.
5. What do the police say?
The police say very little. They deny that the suspensions are politically motivated and say they merely want an opportunity to give due attention to the allegations. The police ministry has stressed that Dramat’s guilt or innocence has not been established and that the minister merely wants to establish the facts for himself.
The ministry says that commenting on the issue would be irresponsible given the possibility of a court case.
6. While all of this is going on, is the Hawks functioning?
Beeld reports that Dramat’s replacement, Benny Ntlemeza, has made a number of changes to the Hawks about which some officials are unhappy. For example, Ntlemeza is said to have replaced at least 12 senior Hawks officials investigating corruption and organised crime.
Hawks spokesperson Paul Ramaloko was transferred to the police’s national communications department. The new spokesperson, Hangwani Mulaudzi, put the allegations down to factions of the Hawks that want to “destabilise” the unit, according to Beeld.
7. What happens now?
On Thursday, the Helen Suzman Foundation will ask a court to stop Dramat’s suspension. If they succeed, he will be reinstated. Meanwhile, a committee of Parliament is launching its own inquiry. Dramat has been asked to appear before the committee on January 29.
On Wednesday, Sibiya will return to court to try to get the police to follow what he deems are proper procedures.
By the end of Tuesday, Maluleke will have told the police why he should not be suspended.
- February 2014: The Ipid completes its investigation into the alleged renditions. The docket is handed to the NPA for a decision to prosecute but no decision has been made. It is not clear what Ipid found, but there is widespread suspicion that the investigation cleared Dramat.
- September 28: KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen is suspended. This is despite an inquiry cleared him of any charges related to the “hit squad” operating in that province, supposedly under his watch. Booysen launches a court bid to stop his suspension. In the court papers, Booysen alleges that his suspension is linked to a number of high profile investigations carried out by the Hawks in that province.
- November 27: A majority judgment by the Constitutional Court, authored by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, strikes down sections of the South African Police Service Act which it deemed to be compromising to the Hawks’ independence.
- December 18: Booysen obtains an interim order preventing national police commissioner Riah Phiyega from carrying out his suspension. Booysen will return to court on March 23 for the order to either be overturned or made final.
- December 23: Hawks head Anwa Dramat is suspended by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. It is believed that his suspension was based on allegations that he was involved in the 2010 rendition of four Zimbabwean suspects.
- December 24: Dramat writes to Nhleko. In a leaked letter, Dramat says his suspension is linked to investigations into influential people.
- January 5: Shadrack Sibiya, head of the Hawks in Gauteng, and a second official, Leslie Maluleke, are served with notice of intension to suspend them. This is allegedly linked to the 2010 illegal deportation of four Zimbabwean suspects.
- January 9: The Helen Suzman Foundation files papers in the high court in Pretoria seeking to have Dramat’s suspension declared unlawful. The case is set down for Thursday, January 16.
- January 11: Major General Shadrack Sibiya secures an interim interdict preventing his suspension. He returns to the Labour Court on Wednesday in an effort to force the police to follow the correct procedures.