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The Usual Suspects: Ntlemeza, Nhleko, Dlamini - Zuma's serial legal delinquents

Daily Maverick logo Daily Maverick 2017-03-20 Marianne Thamm
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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

On Friday, the North Gauteng High Court found that Hawks head Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza "lacks the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to occupy a position of public office... not to mention an office as important of that of National Head of the DPCI". The judgment was damning too of Police Minister Nathi Nhleko who the court said had simply brushed aside the earlier findings that Ntlemeza is dishonest. The common thread among all those shifted by President Zuma into strategic positions and who find themselves in court, is they are either wilfully ignorant or grossly incompetent when it comes to understanding their constitutional mandate – just like their boss. By MARIANNE THAMM.

The removal through a court of law of Hawks Head Lieutenant-General Mthandozo Ntlemeza is a blow to the line-up of pawns as well as some of the more powerful chess pieces in President Jacob Zuma's strategic and destructive game of capturing key state institutions.

The most significant blow, of course, was the reinstatement of Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Finance late 2015 when President Zuma attempted to slip into the Treasury hot seat Des Van Rooyen and a few select advisers, through the back door.

Soon afterwards one of the key blunt instruments in the hounding of Pravin Gordhan, as well as others named in the so-called SARS "rogue unit scandal", was Ntlemeza. It was Ntlemeza who sent a list of shoddily-framed "27 questions" to Gordhan about the "rogue unit" shortly before Gordhan was to deliver his Budget speech in 2016.

It was also Ntlemeza and the Hawks who then dug up different charges, under the same old CAS "rogue unit" number (a case lodged by another Zuma ally, SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, in March 2015) with regard to fraud relating to Pillay's early retirement.

It was one of Ntlemeza's colleagues, Crimes Against the State commander, Brigadier Nyameka Xaba, who was part of a posse who held SARS deputy director of law administration, Vlok Symington, hostage in a boardroom earlier in October in a frantic attempt to retrieve a damning e-mail from SARS' lawyers refusing to participate in the prosecution on "ethical" grounds. It was Symington's exculpatory memorandum which led to the dropping of charges against Gordhan, Pillay and Magashula in October 2016.

Xaba is currently being investigated by IPID for his role, along with Moyane's bodyguard, in holding Symington against his will.

Ntlemeza's anger at learning that the charges ultimately would be withdrawn by the NPA is evident in a series of letters the Hawks head wrote to NPA head, Shaun Abrahams, at the time. A furious Ntlemeza, overestimating his legal mandate in a letter to Abrahams, wrote, "Rather it seems to us that you make (sic) this decision based on the noise made by politicians‚ civil society lobby groups‚ and the media sympathetic to the accused. These groups have falsely accused the Hawks and the NPA in the public domain of pursuing the case against the accused persons for political purposes on instructions from political masters, which is utter nonsense."

Abrahams bitch-slapped Ntlemeza in his reply, telling the Hawks head that he found the "tone" of Ntlemeza's letter "extremely disconcerting and contrary to the spirit espoused in the provision of section 41 of the Constitution".

The NPA head added, in case Ntlemeza was unaware, "I deem it prudent to record that the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and to carry out any necessary functions incidental thereto is constitutionally entrenched and vested in the National Prosecuting Authority."

[A quick aside here. Abrahams could end it all tomorrow, should he decide to withdraw his application against the reinstitution of 783 charges against President Zuma. In one simply display of courage Abrahams could restore his reputation and go from captured to Super Penguin (his mother's nickname for him was Pikkewyn or Penguin) the people's hero].

The other blow to Zuma's Praetorian guard was the reinstatement of Robert McBride as the executive director of IPID. It was McBride who labelled the Crimes Against the State Unit as the "gestapo wing of the Hawks" as he battled his illegal suspension by Nhleko in court.

Moyane and Ntlemeza both appear to act as if they enjoy high-level political protection and set about almost immediately suspending and sidelining officials while fast-tracking promotions and making their own appointments. Ntlemeza made around 60 appointments during his illegal tenure at the Hawks.

© Gallo It is increasingly clear that those who have aligned themselves to President Jacob Zuma including Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi, her SABC proxy Hlaudi Motsoeneng as well as Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, (to name but a few) all have in common a rather slippery grasp of their legal duties as servants of South African citizens.

These are individuals who appear to "take orders", no matter how dodgy, and are willing to bend the country's laws and ignore the Constitution entirely in order to execute these orders. Either that or they are simply not qualified to lead.

Minister Dlamini's genuine surprise at the weekend that she will be held liable for the legal costs of the legal application in the Sassa ConCourt matter is indicative of an individual who is way out of her depth in one of the country's key portfolios, looking after the well-being of the country's poorest and most vulnerable. But with budgets of billions floating around it is hard to sometimes focus on your core function anyway, it appears.

SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane will also face the law soon as charges have been lodged by Corruption Watch with regard to the commissioner's failure to act on information supplied by the Financial Intelligence Centre with regard to his most trusted right-hand man, Jonas Makwakwa, and the R1.2-million in suspicious deposits into his private bank account and that of his lover Kelly-Anne Elskie.

Ntlemeza was appointed by Minister of Police Nathi Nkleko in 2015 after former Hawks Head, Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat, was suspended by Nhleko – on highly questionable charges that have become known as the "Zimbabwean rendition" case of 2010.

Gauteng Hawks Head, Major-General Shadrack Sibiya, KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Major-General Johan Booysen,  IPID head Robert McBride as well as IPID head of investigations Matthew Sesoko were all drawn into the "rendition" case and were sidelined or suspended only to have these suspensions overruled in court. All of these officials had been flying too close to a particularly bright flame and had been investigating individuals who were/are connected to President Jacob Zuma, his family and their business interests.

It was Ntlemeza's illegal suspension of Sibiya, which was set aside in the North Gauteng High Court and later challenged by Ntlemeza, that Judge Elias Matojane remarked that the Hawks head had "misled the court" that he was "biased and dishonest" as well as that he "lacked integrity and honour".

This ruling by Judge Matojane formed the basis of the Helen Suzman's bid Foundation to have Ntlemeza suspended.

In his Friday judgment Judge David Mabuse is searing of Ntlemeza and Police Minister Nhleko and referred to Judge Matojane's earlier pronouncements on Ntlemeza which Nhleko has consistently maintained were merely "an opinion".

"The judgments are replete with the findings of dishonesty and mala fides against Major General Ntlemeza. These were judicial pronouncements. They therefore constitute direct evidence that Major-General Ntlemeza lacks the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to occupy the position of any public office, not to mention an office as more important as that of the National Head of the DPCI, where independence, honesty and integrity are paramount to qualities. Currently no appeal lies against the findings of dishonesty and impropriety made by the Court in the judgments. Accordingly, such serious findings of fact in relation to Major-General Ntlemeza, which go directly to Major-General Ntlemeza's trustworthiness, his honesty and integrity, are definitive. Until such findings are appealed against successfully they shall remain as a lapidary against Lieutenant General Ntlemeza," said Judge Mabuse.

Minister Nhleko too had been found to be in breach of his legal duties when he had failed to notify Parliament of the appointment of Ntlemeza as required by the South African Police Services Act, a crucial matter he said had been "overlooked".

The court found that Nhleko had withheld from the panel set up to appoint Dramat's successor the damning judgments by Judge Matojane of Ntlemeza.

The Helen Suzman Foundation – whose offices were raided three days after the lobby group had filed an application to have Ntlemeza suspended with the high court in March last year – has been at the forefront of several critical legal actions including the Omar al-Bashir case where it acted as amicus curiae. On Friday, after the ConCourt had delivered its judgment in the Sassa case, the offices of the Chief Justice were raided in a similar fashion when 15 computers were stolen.

There has, in the meantime, been no progress in the police investigation into the brazen raid on the HSF offices. Police have not even returned to take statements.

Nhleko attempted to delay the HSF court application by refusing to submit documents that were considered by the panel when Ntlemeza was appointed.

Judge Mabuse on Friday set aside Nhleko's appointment of Ntlemeza as head of the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigations and ordered both to pay the HSF costs, in their official capacities.

On Friday, Judge Johann Kriegler, Chair of Freedom Under Law (FUL), said that South Africans could celebrate two judgments, that by the Constitutional Court with regard to Sassa and social security grants and the setting aside of Ntlemeza's appointment.

Freedom Under Law was actively involved with the Black Sash and FUL and Kriegler said, "Here we wish to underline why HSF and FUL are particularly gratified by the Ntlemeza judgment. It has been a long and uphill struggle, commencing towards the end of 2015 and involving a failed attempt about this time last year to persuade Judge Tuchten that the removal of General Ntlemeza had to be urgently considered. Now, after the case was argued in December 2016, three judges have unanimously upheld our contention that the general's appointment was unconstitutional and invalid.

It is to be hoped that the minister will accept the judgment and proceed to find a suitable person to fill this vital niche in our criminal justice system, said Judge Kriegler.

Minister Nhleko – who has been on a losing streak for quite some time – including with his very special alternative Nkandla report, has subsequently announced that he will appeal Friday's judgment. It is not clear what the legal grounds would be for this.

Hopefully Minister Nhleko will be asked, like Minister Dlamini, to carry these costs in his personal capacity.

So far, the political witch hunt of Dramat, Gauteng Hawks Head General Shadrack Sibiya, KwaZulu-Natal Hawks Head, Johan Booysen, IPID head Robert McBride and others has already cost the ministry of police R17.2-million, Nhleko told Parliament in October 2016.

Meanwhile Chair of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Police, Francois Beukman, issued a statement saying the committee had "taken note" of the Ntlemeza judgment and would apply for a special committee meeting on April 7 to discuss the matter. The committee will be calling Nhleko "to explain what remedial steps will be taken in dealing with this ruling, as well as plans to address the deficiencies in the appointment process". DM

Photo: Police Minister Nathi Nhleko (GCIS), Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini (GCIS), the Hawks head Lieutenant-General Mthandazo Ntlemeza (News24)

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