The Helen Suzman Foundation has also asked for direct access to the Constitutional Court in a bid to have Dramat reinstated.
Within hours of the foundation’s high court victory on Friday, Police minister Nathi Nhleko announced that he had lodged an appeal.
This frustrated efforts to reinstate Dramat immediately as an appeal means that the high court order cannot be enforced pending the appeal hearing.
Foundation director Francois Antonie said the decision to take action in both courts was reached after “consulting extensively” with legal advisors. Antonie is concerned that further delay caused by appeals will fester uncertainty”.
“If the high court grants such an enforcement order, the high court order would be enforced regardless of any appeal,” he said.
The foundation also wants the matter to be decided in the Constitutional Court to avoid any further delays caused by the appeals process.
In a short judgement delivered on Friday morning, Judge Bill Prinsloo set aside Nhleko’s appointment of Benny Ntlemeza as the Hawks’ acting national head, and ordered Nhleko to pay the foundation’s legal costs.
The foundation had filed the urgent application seeking Dramat’s reinstatement and the reversal of Ntlemeza’s appointment on the grounds that Dramat’s suspension contravened new rules governing the independence of the Hawks.
In government’s application to appeal it said: “The court erred in finding that the minister has no power to suspend the head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation [Hawks] other than as contemplated in sections … of the South African Police Service Act.”
Judge Prinsloo agreed with the foundation that the Police Service Act, as amended by an earlier Constitutional Court judgment, only allows for suspension of the head of the Hawks after a decision by the relevant parliamentary committee.
Police department spokesperson Musa Zondi said on January 23 that the appeal documents had been served, and that Dramat remained suspended.
Antonie, in a supporting affidavit lodged with the high court on Monday, said: “the situation had become even more urgent. As confirmed by this honourable court, every day that the national head is out of office on the basis of unlawful ministerial interference poses an unacceptable risk to the work and operation of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) as well as public confidence in such a vital institution of government”.
Antonie said the acting head was already making decisions that would have far-reaching and irreversible consequences.
He was referring to an article Beeld carried on January 13, in which Ntlemeza was alleged to have asked for a copy of the DPCI structure so that changes would be considered.
Antonie said he has also transferred Colonel Zama Basi, head of integrity, and Colonel Mike Reddy, head of finances, and replaced former spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko with his own spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi.
He said media articles suggest that at least 12 senior officers, all of whom headed forums which dealt with corruption cases, have been replaced since he was appointed in late December last year.
“The urgency in this matter cannot be overstated,” he said. “The DPCI is an indispensable investigative organ, whose reach extends to the highest office in South Africa, and must be given substantial protections to carry out its mandate to combat corruption and organised crime.”
Dramat, who was suspended on allegations that he was involved in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabweans – two of whom were found dead – said in papers before the high court that he was being targeted because of an investigation he had launched into the president’s residence Nkandla.
Separately, Special Investigating Unit head, Vas Soni, on Monday resigned in a surprise move, citing personal reasons for his decision.
During his career one of Soni’s tasks included conducting an investigation into President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla home.
“I think it has been stressful and it’s a serious challenge … I had spent almost my entire working life in the private sector and did not realise what a challenge working in the public sector is,” Soni told eNCA.