Hawks boss Anwa Dramat tries to cut a deal with Police Minister
Hawks boss Anwa Dramat has offered to cut a deal with Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, whose decision to suspend him has sent shockwaves through the elite crime-fighting unit.
In a letter to Nhleko seen by Sunday Times reporters, Dramat offered to go on early retirement on condition that his suspension was lifted "without me having to approach the court to do so". He gave Nhleko until January 5 to respond.
Dramat said in the letter that he had made powerful enemies by investigating "very influential persons" who wanted to "remove me from my position".
"I'm also aware that in the next two months there will be a drive to remove certain investigations that fell under my 'watch', reallocate certain cases, and that, unfortunately, certain sensitive investigations may even be closed down," he said.
A source close to the matter said police commissioner Riah Phiyega asked Dramat earlier this month to hand over Hawks files on matters such as Nkandla; a R60-million fraud case in KwaZulu-Natal and an investigation involving Northern Cape ANC chairman John Block, among others.
"Dramat refused ... to hand over the Hawks files and dockets to Phiyega," the source said.
This could not be verified independently and Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale, spokesman for Phiyega, did not respond to written questions or telephone calls.
In his letter to Nhleko, Dramat said: "I have recently called for certain case dockets involving very influential persons to be brought, or alternatively centralised, under one investigating arm and this has clearly caused massive resentment towards me."
The suspended Hawks boss said he had to decide whether to continue "trying to operate within the system ... to effect meaningful change by investigating and rooting out corruption, which has reached ... epic proportions".
"I can unequivocally point out that I'm not willing to compromise the principles that I have always believed in. I'm not willing to be 'agreeable' or 'compliant' insofar as I would then be acting contrary to my own moral principles and, also, contrary to the position in which I was appointed," Dramat wrote.
Nhleko suspended Dramat on Tuesday after receiving a report based on an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) into his alleged role in the rendition of Zimbabweans to their home country.
In his letter Dramat said the probe had been "badly conducted by the investigator of Ipid and the spurious allegations were made to tarnish my reputation".
The Ipid report was sent to the National Prosecuting Authority earlier this year.
Dramat's suspension comes hot on the heels of Phiyega's attempt to fire KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen earlier this month.
Booysen, who won a court interdict against his dismissal, also claimed he had been targeted because he was involved in politically sensitive investigations.
But Nhleko has failed to suspend Gauteng Hawks boss Major-General Shadrack Sibiya and Hawks Colonel Leslie "Cowboy" Maluleke, even though Ipid found evidence that both were involved in the renditions.
"The minister does not deem it necessary at this point to put anyone on suspension other than the head of [the Hawks]," Nhleko's spokesman, Musa Zondi, said. "The probe will be conducted by a team the minister will announce soon."
In his suspension letter, Nhleko told Dramat he regarded the allegations against him as "very serious".
"I have reason to believe that your presence in the workplace is likely to jeopardise the investigation and deter potential witnesses from coming forward," the minister said.
"It's in the interest of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation [Hawks], yourself and the interest of justice that you be placed on precautionary suspension pending the investigation and the inquiry."
How Dramat could have jeopardised the rendition investigation is not clear because it has been completed and the NPA has the docket.
A draft Ipid report and sworn statements seen by Sunday Times reporters claimed Dramat had:
- Initiated a joint operation with Zimbabwean detectives that led to the renditions;
- Personally invited the Zimbabwean detectives to South Africa to carry out the renditions and held a meeting at the Hawks head office in Pretoria to plan the operation;
- Appointed Sibiya to co-ordinate plans with the Zimbabweans and appointed Maluleke to lead the operation; and
- Was kept abreast during "various milestones of the operation" by 30 text messages from Sibiya and one from Maluleke.
Ipid investigators took statements from two police officers who said Dramat had congratulated them after the Zimbabwean citizens were arrested for rendition and "advised them to keep it a secret".
The report also revealed that Zimbabwean police officers joined the Hawks on the raids even though they had no policing powers in South Africa.
The report found there was "overwhelming evidence" against Maluleke "as a foot soldier in the operation", including that:
A letter he addressed to the Department of Home Affairs, dated November 11 2010 and asking for help, was in fact only generated a year later, "shortly after the news about illegal deportation of Zimbabwean nationals hit the media";
A document he produced as "proof" that the Zimbabweans had been processed by home affairs officials and were designated as illegal foreigners was a forgery, because the form used no longer existed and a handwriting expert found the signatures had been faked; and
Documents produced as proof that the Zimbabweans had been legally deported were also faked because the stamp used on them had been locked in a safe at the time it was supposed to have been used, and the forms contained no fingerprints.
The Ipid investigation was sparked by a Sunday Times report in November 2011 that revealed how a team led by Sibiya and Maluleke had arrested four Zimbabweans in Diepsloot suspected of killing a police colonel in Bulawayo.
Witness Ndeya, Shepherd Chuma, Nelson Ndlovu and Maqhawe Sibanda were detained at Orlando police station in Soweto before being driven to Beit Bridge border crossing.
Sibanda and Ndlovu were dropped off before the border, but Ndeya and Chuma were handed to Zimbabwean security officials. Days later Ndeya's bullet-riddled body was released to his relatives in a Bulawayo mortuary.
Maluleke said later the men had been suspected of casino robberies, cash-in-transit heists and ATM bombings in Gauteng. But members of his team said in sworn statements they had been looking for suspects in the killing of the Zimbabwean police officer. It later emerged none of the four could be linked to the murder.
Maluleke said the Ipid investigation was the result of "infighting" and accused a group of Hawks members loyal to former crime intelligence boss Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli of orchestrating a smear campaign against him, Sibiya and Dramat. Mdluli goes on trial for murder in June.
"Sibiya wanted them to arrest Mdluli and these people refused. They said Mdluli was their comrade. They are behind this," he said.
He said it was telling that Dramat had been replaced in an acting capacity by Major-General Berning Ntlemeza, who cleared Mdluli after conducting an internal investigation into him in 2009.
Maluleke said he had taken the Zimbabweans to Beit Bridge personally because "I regarded them as dangerous" but claimed he had followed correct deportation procedures. "I am an international law enforcement officer. I had every right to deport them."
He rejected Ipid's evidence that his home affairs documents were forgeries. "Some of the regions still use the old forms. It's a lie that the signatures were forged."
Asked about backdating his letter to home affairs, he said: "We dealt with many cases. Ipid doesn't know how to do an investigation."
Dramat confirmed he had been questioned by Ipid investigators, but said he had not seen the report sent to the minister. He declined to comment on his suspension, but in a letter he wrote to Ipid last year he also protested that he had been subjected to a smear campaign to derail his investigations.
Sibiya could not be reached for comment.