The High Court sitting in Pretoria has reviewed and ruled that the appointment of Berning Ntlemeza as head of Hawks is invalid and unlawful.
The case to set aside Ntlemeza’s appointment was brought by the civil society groups – Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation.
In their separate applications, the groups based their argument on two high court judgments which found that Ntlemeza has been dishonest and lacks integrity.
In March 2015, Judge Elias Matojane ruled that Ntlemeza “lacks integrity and honour” and had made false statements under oath. He was acting Hawks head at the time.
KwaZulu-Natal Judge Anton van Zyl made similar remarks when the head of the Hawks in that province, Major-General Johan Booysen challenged his axing by Ntlemeza. The judge at the time said the decision to suspend Booysen was taken in bad faith and for ulterior purposes.
They also requested the court to refer the appointment back to a selection panel for a new candidate to be chosen.
Ntlemeza was appointed as the acting head of Hawks in December 2014 by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko after the suspension of former Hawks head Anwa Dramat for his alleged involvement in the alleged illegal rendition of a group of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010.
Dramat later quit while KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen and the unit’s Gauteng head, Shadrack Sibiya, were subsequently suspended.
In January, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko rubbished newspaper reports regarding the appointment of Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza.
The City Press had reported that Nhleko allegedly ignored a shortlist of five highly qualified officers and appointed Ntlemeza.
Nhleko condemned the report by saying at the time: “It would be incorrect whilst we’re waiting for a court judgment on the issue, we’re now beginning to retry the matter in a sense and of course there is no media house that is a proper platform to hear legal matters.”
In November 2016, the Democratic Alliance (DA) called for the immediate dismissal of Hawks Boss Berning Ntlemeza for dragging the credibility and reputation of the elite unit through the mire.
DA wrote to Police Minister Nhleko requesting for Ntlemeza’s provisional suspension. The party’s call for the elite crime unit’s boss to be fired was filed after the court papers filed by National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams stirred up another hornet’s nest; revealing series of word wars between him and Ntlemeza.
In the said court paper, Ntlemeza accused Abrahams of acquitting Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in bad faith and based on the public outcry made by politicians, civil society lobby groups, and the media.