The Helen Suzman Foundation said that the judgment passed on Friday has been a long time coming.
The foundation took Dramat’s suspension to court, bringing an urgent application asking that Police Minister Nathi Nhleko’s decision to suspend him be set aside. The court ruled on Friday that the suspension contravened a Constitutional Court judgment.
Dramat was suspended on December 23, apparently pending a probe into his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition – the illegal kidnapping and transfer of prisoner from one country to another – of four Zimbabweans in November 2010. Two were killed under suspicious circumstances.
The head of the Hawks in Gauteng, Shadrack Sibiya, and senior Hawks official Leslie Maluleke were also suspended on the same charges as Dramat. The crime-fighting body announced on Thursday that it had appointed Major General Nhlamvu Elias Dlamini acting head, in place of Sibiya.
A fourth official, KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen, was also placed on suspension but this was temporarily overturned in court.
In papers before the court, the minister alleges that two of the Zimbabweans who were deported were “subsequently murdered by the Zimbabwean police to whom they were handed over unlawfully”.
The minister also said that he felt he would be “shirking on my constitutional and statutory obligations” were he to turn a blind eye to the allegations.
The foundation challenged Dramat’s suspension, saying that the minister had acted unlawfully when he suspended the Hawks head and replaced him with Benny Ntlemeza, a “man of the minister’s own choice”.
Minister’s conduct was ‘unlawful’
In papers before the court Dramat was listed as second respondent, after the minister.
David Unterhalter for the foundation told the court that the minister had no power to suspend the head of the Hawks unit, which now had to be decided through a parliamentary process. The minister’s unilateral power to suspend was taken away in a Constitutional Court decision involving an application by the foundation and businessperson Hugh Glenister, questioning the executive powers over the Hawks.
“It is simply a case of unlawful conduct by the minister and we ask that the court intervenes,” said Unterhalter. “The minister has no choice but to follow the parliamentary process and in this case he has not done so.”
The foundation said its case would not be affected by any agreement that may be reached between Dramat and the minister because the issue was about the office, and not the man. Dramat had suggested early retirement in a letter to the minister, which was included in the foundation’s representation to the court.
The suspension has been cloaked in allegation and rebuttal by Dramat and the ministry. In court papers Dramat alleges that he was conducting an investigation into Nkandla, which has been denied by the Hawks.
Suspended SARS head Ivan Pillay has also alleged that he was investigating Jacob Zuma and his Nkandla home. Pillay has taken his fight to overturn his suspension to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
He was suspended on the grounds that he set up a “rogue” unit within the revenue service, which has been performing intelligence functions.
Pillay said the unit had been given the highest clearance.