The suspension of Hawks head Anwa Dramat is not a personal attack on him but about recognising the gross violation of human rights in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabweans, and the value of the lives of the two who were found dead.
By focusing only on Dramat’s suspension and not his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of the Zimbabweans, the country was not giving enough importance to the lives of black people that died as a result, says Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.
Nhleko was briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on police on Thursday on the December suspension of the Hawks head and the subsequent hiring of Major General Berning Ntlemeza as the acting head.
“Having taken into consideration our history, I am convinced that because the lives involved and the lives at stake are those of black people, therefore, all that the colonial forces can do is prop up the debate, and for it to be about the institutional arrangements of the Hawks. Had the lives involved been those of white people, the debate and headlines would have been about human rights.
“This is the sad reality we must fight and defeat, for our immediate aim as a country remains this creation in practice, of a truly just and democratic society, that is able to sweep away the old legacy of colonial conquest and white domination,” the minister said in his presentation.
Nhleko suspended Dramat last month after he received a draft report from a reference group he had established to look into allegations of misconduct and corruption, he said.
He was then taken to court by the Helen Suzman Foundation, which brought an urgent application to have Dramat reinstated, and won. Within hours of the foundation’s victory last week, Nhleko announced that he had lodged an appeal.
‘Suzman would have stood for the victims’
On Thursday the minister said he was convinced that had Helen Suzman been alive today, she would have been standing for the victims. Suzman was a liberal anti-apartheid activist and politician.
“She would have upheld the observance of fundamental human rights regardless of the victims’ skin colour. It is therefore no accident that when the issue is about fundamental human rights, neo-colonialists, apologists and some of their media sympathisers elect to frame the matter as if it is about institutional arrangements and political partisanship,” Nhleko said.
Nhleko, who insisted that he had acted within his rights in suspending Dramat, asked the portfolio committee to help untie his hands in the matter and begin proceedings for a permanent removal of the Hawks head from his position as he was “not fit and proper to hold that office”.
In a letter to committee members – including Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald and Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard, the National Freedom Party’s Munzoor Shaik-Emam and committee chairperson and ANC MP Francois Beukman, among others – Nhleko said until the legal issue was resolved on appeal, which was likely to take months, his hands remained tied.
“It will not be in the interest of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, its head and of the SAPS and the country as a whole for such allegations to linger too long against Dramat without steps being taken to deal with them.
“To this end, I request that you [Beukman] as chairperson of the portfolio committee take steps to initiate a parliamentary process for the removal of the head of the DPCI on grounds of misconduct and that he is not fit and proper to hold that office.”
ANC MP Nyami Booi, who does not serve on the committee, pledged his full support and that of his party to Nhleko, and praised him for his presentation.
Nhleko’s presentation all ‘smoke and mirrors’
Incensed with the direction of the presentation, Groenewald said it was all smoke and mirrors and he was disappointed that Nhleko had decided to focus on race.
“It is quite disappointing that you brought race into the matter because you said if it was white people, then the outcry would have been different. I think we must move on in South Africa. This is 2015 already, this is a constitutional democracy.”
Groenewald rubbished the minister’s presentation and suggested he fire his legal team for their advice on suspending Dramat.
Nhleko justified bringing race into the matter by saying it was a fact that the outcry would have been different if those involved had been white.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Diliza Twala urged Nhleko to hold off on further actions against Dramat and said he was astounded at how the country had come to a standstill over renditions, which were not new.
Kohler-Barnard said: “If the minister was confident that his conduct in this regard was lawful, as he has purported, he would not need Parliament to condone his decision ex post facto (after the fact). If General Dramat has committed a crime he must be charged, not judged by a Parliamentary committee in lieu of a court.”
Committee chairperson Beukman said the committee would make a decision on Friday regarding Nhleko’s request as they needed time to read his letter.