Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has withdrawn the appeal of a high court judgment setting aside the appointment of Berning Ntlemeza as head of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigations (the Hawks).
Mbalula’s office confirmed in a statement that the appeal to keep Ntlemeza in his position was withdrawn in the Supreme Court of Appeal on Wednesday.
“The minister of police will on Thursday meet with the top management of the Hawks and inform them of his decision,” police spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said.
Ntlemeza was appointed by former police minister Nathi Nhleko in December 2014. Civic organisations Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation approached the courts last year to have the appointment declared invalid.
After the first failed attempt, the organisations approached the High Court in Pretoria at the end of last year, arguing that the position of Hawks head required integrity and honesty, and Ntlemeza had been found wanting.
In March 2015, high court judge Elias Matojane wrote in a judgment that Ntlemeza was dishonest, lacking in integrity and dishonourable.
Shortly after being appointed minister of police in a controversial Cabinet reshuffle by President Jacob Zuma, Mbalula signalled his intention to accept the high court ruling.
“I think in the police we are not running short of men and women, nobody is irreplaceable here. Anybody can be replaced in the police. I’m not prepared to waste time about General Ntlemeza until Christmas,” Mbalula said last week.
“We need the Hawks to dig out those criminals with bad motives who are crippling our country in terms of serious economic crimes … I’m not going to be sitting here without a head [of Hawks] and then somebody [Ntlemeza] is running around in court. I need criminals behind bars.”