Court orders Hawks head Anwa Dramat be reinstated
The Pretoria high court has found in favour of the Helen Suzman Foundation, ordering that Hawks boss Anwa Dramat be reinstated and that an earlier order by Judge Bill Prinsloo remain in force throughout the appeal process.
Without this court order to uphold a previous judgment, the status quo comes into effect once an appeal is launched. That would mean that Dramat remains suspended and unable to return to work until a court ruling on the appeal.
The foundation said in court documents that it was concerned that changes could be made in Dramat’s absence by acting head Major General Berning Ntlemeza, that could not be overturned if Dramat was reinstated on appeal.
“It’s a resounding victory for the Constitution and defence of the rule of law,” the foundation’s director, Francis Antonie, said on Friday after the court’s decision.
The Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko wants Dramat removed from office until disciplinary measures against him are completed.
In its application to the court the foundation said: “The national head’s suspension, and the decisions taken by the acting national head have an immediate impact on high profile investigations.”
“The status quo cannot continue in light of serious, ongoing threats to the very integrity of the [Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation].”
The foundation said “the minister of police’s appeal application enjoys no prospects for success”.
The importance of the latest ruling
Without this court order to uphold a previous judgment, the status quo comes into effect once an appeal is launched.
That would mean that Dramat remains suspended and unable to return to work until a court ruling on the appeal.
Dramat was suspended on December 23 2014 on allegations that he was involved in the illegal rendition of four Zimabweans, two of whom subsequently died. He was then placed on a precautionary suspension for 60 days. This just three weeks after the Constitutional Court removed the minister’s power to suspend him before a parliamentary disciplinary process had begun.
The foundation had brought the case that resulted in the ruling by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on November 27 last year that strengthened the independence of the Hawks in several important ways, including restricting the suspension or removal of its head.
The Mail & Guardian reported in January that his extraordinary suspension may have been designed to protect Zuma Inc – the network of financial and business interests surrounding President Jacob Zuma and his family, according to circumstantial evidence.
An explosive December 24 letter from Dramat to Nhleko – which was obtained by amaBhungane – showed that Dramat blamed the move against him on his decision to focus on investigating “very influential persons”.
A source close to Dramat – and two police sources – told amaBhungane the investigations Dramat referred to included the criminal probe relating to the controversial R246-million security upgrade at Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, and the investigation of a flamboyant Durban businessperson linked to the Zuma family.
The Pretoria high court then ruled on January 23 that the minister’s decision to suspend Dramat was invalid. The minister countered the ruling with an appeal the very same day. This after it had released a statement earlier in the day confirming that it would not “stop” Dramat from returning to his offices.
The foundation responded by launching an urgent application for the enforcement of the order reinstating Dramat. The application was made on the grounds that Nhleko’s appeal had frustrated efforts to reinstate Dramat immediately, as an appeal means that the high court order cannot be enforced pending the appeal hearing.
Constitutional Court: Minister cannot remove head
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court said that the Constitution makes provision for the independence of the Hawks because of their role in investigating illegal activities. It ruled that the minister could not remove the head – it had to be subject to a parliamentary process.
The foundation argued in the matter before Judge Prinsloo that their application was not about Dramat, but about the office he represents. Dramat is one of many Hawks officials who have been suspended.
Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya has also been suspended, and after he objected to the process, he was reinstated, had an amendment made to his suspension letter, and was then suspended again.