JOHANNESBURG – SUSPENDEDÂ Hawks head Anwa Dramat allegedly told members of his Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) to keep secret the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean, according to Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko.
In a letter to police portfolio committee chairman Francois Beukman on Thursday, Nhleko cites the deportations of a number of Zimbabwean citizens in 2010 as reason for suspending Dramat.
Nhleko appeared before the committee on Thursday to explain Dramat’s suspension on December 23 last year, which was successfully challenged in court last week by the Helen Suzman Foundation.
On Friday, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that Nhleko’s decision to suspend Dramat was unlawful and invalid and should be set aside.
Following the ruling, lawyers for the minister immediately filed an application to appeal against the judgment.
In his letter on Thursday, Nhleko said it was not in the interests of the DPCI, its head, the SA Police Service and the country, for the serious allegations “to linger too long” against Dramat.
“To this end, I request you as chairman of the portfolio committee to take steps [in terms of legislation]to initiate a parliamentary process for the removal of the head of the DPCI on the grounds of misconduct and that he is not fit and proper to hold office.”
The allegations made against Dramat “relate to the illegal rendition of Zimbabweans who were Â illegally arrested by members of the DPCI, in Diepsloot, Johannesburg, and under falsified home affairs deportation documents were extradited to Zimbabwe through Beit Bridge border gate”.
According to Nhleko, they were handed over to the Zimbabwean police, who tortured them.
“Two of these Zimbabwean nationals were ultimately killed by the Zimbabwean police. Witness statements place Dramat and [Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack] Sibiya at the centre of these unlawful renditions, and that they occurred with Dramat’s knowledge and approval.”
After the completion of the handover of the Zimbabwean nationals to the Zimbabwe police, “the allegation is that Dramat addressed the DPCI officers and thanked them for the job well done, and informed them that they should keep it secret”.
In the letter to Beukman, Nhleko said there could be no doubt that if the renditions occurred in the manner described, and in contravention of South Africa’s laws and its international obligations, “Dramat as the head should be held responsible and therefore liable for these atrocious acts”.
Earlier, Nhleko told MPs he had acted within the law when he suspended Dramat.
“Upon assuming duty, I was inundated with files of alleged misconduct, corruption and atrocities within the SA Police Service. And as the minister of police… I felt duty-bound that I could not ignore such allegations.”
He said a confidential report by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) put the Hawks at the centre of this matter.
“The allegations made in witness statements in the Ipid report and other documents — which cannot at this stage be disclosed — place the DPCI and its head at the centre of this alleged illegal rendition.”
Nhleko said various regional and international protocols and conventions dealing with extradition had been flouted by the illegal rendition.
“The issue before us is about human rights. And it is about violations of those human rights conducted in our name and the name of the state.”
Nhleko said accountability was the hallmark of a constitutional democracy.
“I regard accountability as the hallmark of a constitutional democracy, especially from a high office such as the DPCI.
“Similarly, I also do regard myself as accountable within the parameters of my statutory powers, and I am therefore compelled to act against such heinous crimes.”
Nhleko dismissed allegations of political partisanship in the matter.
“Since this issue arose, a lot has been said… [that]political partisanships were behind the steps that have been taken. Various insinuations and allegations have been made.
“It was even suggested that [I] asked General Dramat to surrender certain files pertaining to some sensitive investigations, Nkandla [President Jacob Zuma’s residence] being one of them. This is not true.
“I respect the work of the Hawks, and I respect that they have got to be sufficiently independent in the conduct of their work.”
In his letter to Beukman, Nhleko said that until the legal issues around Dramat’s suspension were settled, “my hands to institute disciplinary proceedings against the head of the DPCI remain tied”.
The minister also told Beukman he was saddened by the fact “that the serious allegations that are made against the head of the DPCI have been obfuscated and obscured by the legal wrangling on whether or not I have the power to suspend him”. -Â Sapa