The police union and opposition parties have welcomed the ruling that the appointment of Hawks boss Lieutenant-General Berning Ntlemeza was unlawful and invalid, and have called on Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to not delay Ntlemeza’s “eventual demise”.
“His empty appeal will compromise service delivery as the cloud hanging over the head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation on its own is costly,” the South African Policing Union president Mpho Kwinika said on Monday.
“It is clear that Minister Nhleko is applying dirty delaying tactics because Ntlemeza will never survive this,” Kwinika said.
The union called for Nhleko to pay the legal costs of the appeal out of his own pocket.
On Friday, the North Gauteng High Court declared Ntlemeza’s appointment unlawful and invalid, and set it aside.
Nhleko’s office said on Sunday that Ntlemeza would remain in his position until an appeal process had been finalised.
“The appeal process will effectively suspend the current court order and will allow General Ntlemeza to stay in his job until the matter is heard and adjudicated as per the appeal,” Nhleko’s spokesperson Sandile Ngidi said.
Ngidi said Nhleko was appealing the ruling because Ntlemeza had not been given a chance to respond to charges.
Kwinika said Ntlemeza’s appointment had been a source of controversy from day one.
Nhleko had acknowledged to Parliament’s police committee that there were shortcomings in Ntlemeza’s appointment, Kwinika said.
“The question is why go all the way to defend a pensioner like General Ntlemeza? This brazen behaviour from the minister is totally unacceptable.”
Nhleko was found to have ignored two court judgments which found that Ntlemeza lacked integrity and honesty, when he appointed him head of the elite police unit.
“It was not for the minister, nor was it enough for the minister, to read the said judgments and formulate his opinion without placing them before the interview panel,” Judge David Mabuse ruled on Friday.
The findings in both previous judgments constituted “direct evidence” that Ntlemeza lacked the requisite honesty, integrity, and conscientiousness to hold public office.
“The minister simply brushed aside a considered opinion of a superior court,” Mabuse said.
The Helen Suzman Foundation, which had brought the application together with Freedom Under Law, had asked the court to refer the appointment back to a selection panel for a new candidate to be chosen.
Ntlemeza was appointed as national head of the Hawks in September 2015.
In November 2015, the Helen Suzman Foundation wrote to Nhleko asking for the reasons for his decision. In an affidavit explaining why he had appointed Ntlemeza, Nhleko said he had been satisfied with Ntlemeza’s explanation regarding the previous court judgments against him.
Meanwhile, opposition parties have called for Ntlemeza’s head.
“We have always maintained that he should not have been appointed in the first instance because a judge of another court described him is dishonest and lacking integrity,” said national chairperson of the Congress of the People, Pakes Dikgetsi.
“Since his appointment the Hawks have not attached any priority to corruption crimes against the people of South Africa. They have become soft on corruption perpetrated by cronies of the Zuma-ANC. They have instead become a political weapon used by Jacob Zuma to intimidate and harass political opponents, especially those who fight against state capture like Minister Pravin Gordhan.”
Dikgetsi demanded that the government complies with the order forthwith and not to again abuse taxpayers’ money through frivolous appeals.
The Democratic Alliance also called on Nhleko to respect the ruling.
“The DA is deeply concerned that Nhleko is yet again wastefully spending public money on defending an unlawful appointment. This is money that could be spent on fighting crime, and establishing or strengthening specialised units,” the DA’s Zakhele Mbhele said.
“The DA will again submit parliamentary questions to ascertain the real cost of these cases. South Africans must know how their money is being used to defend the indefensible.
“South Africans deserve to feel safe in the knowledge that the leadership of their police services are competent,” Mbhele said.