Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s campaign to get rid of suspended Hawks head Anwa Dramat hit a snag today when Parliament’s portfolio committee on police decided to refer his letter to National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete.
Yesterday, Nhleko asked the panel to begin proceedings for the permanent removal of the Hawks head from his position as he was “not fit and proper to hold that office”, a request that portfolio committee chairperson ANC MP Francois Beukman was not comfortable granting as the legislation was not clear on whether the portfolio committee was the right one to grant the request.
“It is important to understand that we as parliament must act in terms of the law, the rules and precedence. Now there is a problem with Section 17 for us to proceed with the minister’s request.
The legislation says a committee of parliament must entertain this request and it is not clear in the current legislation that the committee is the one of police,” Beukman said.
“In terms of the rules, it can be a different committee or an Ad Hoc committee. In the absence of clear guidelines, it’s the speaker who can make a decision. So my suggestion is we take note of the letter and that I write to the speaker for guidance on whether indeed it is this committee that can move with this matter or entertain this matter,” said Beukman.
Nhleko suspended Dramat last month due to allegations that he had been involved in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabwean nationals, two of them were later found dead.
Nhleko’s decision was challenged in court by the Helen Suzman Foundation, which brought an urgent application to have Dramat reinstated, and won. Nhleko is appealing the court’s decision.
In his letter to the committee, 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 Investigations, 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.” Nhleko said.
In his presentation to the committee yesterday, Nhleko said if the lives of those who had died were those of white people, the outcry would have been different and focused more on human rights, rather than the suspension of Nhleko.
While the ANC, Economic Freedom Fighters and Freedom Front Plus agreed with the minister, Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard raised fierce objections to the committee even taking the matter further, which resulted in a rapid exchange of harsh words between her and ANC MP Nyami Booi.
An irritated Booi kept the DA police spokesperson to shut up, keep quiet and stop being a rude woman when she interrupted his pledge of support to the chairperson, with Kohler-Barnard telling him he was a “horrible, horrible man”.
In an attempt at humour, ANC MP Jerome Maake said the minister should come with boxing gloves to meetings in future.
“I would like to raise a word of warning to the committee, we have actually seen this dance before. We have seen the head of the Hawks in KwaZulu-Natal [Major General Johan Booysen] suspended, allegations were made and they were taken as gospel. It took him two and a half years to get cleared . . ,” Kohler-Barnard said.
Chairperson Beukman said the committee would also inform Nhleko of the decision to defer the matter to the National Assembly speaker.