Hawks boss fingered in rendition scandal

13 October 2013 - 01:57 By MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA and STEPHAN HOFSTATTER
Hawks boss Anwa Dramat. File photo.
Hawks boss Anwa Dramat. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times

Damning new documents put Hawks boss Lieutenant-General Anwa Dramat at the centre of a rendition scandal in which Zimbabweans were arrested in South Africa and sent across the border to be tortured and killed.

Internal police memos and a sworn statement by a senior border police official at Beit Bridge in Limpopo allege that he facilitated the illegal deportations.

President Jacob Zuma is expected to be presented with evidence this week that could result in an arrest warrant being issued for Dramat, one of South Africa's top cops.

Rendition is the illegal kidnapping and transfer of a prisoner from one country to another.

The Sunday Times understands that Dramat has agreed to present himself for interrogation to investigators from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) on Tuesday.

A decision will be made after this meeting whether to arrest him and six others, including Gauteng Hawks boss Major-General Shadrack Sibiya and the Hawks's Colonel Leslie "Cowboy" Maluleke, for their alleged role in the renditions.

The investigation was sparked by a Sunday Times exposé in October 2011 that detailed how a team led by Sibiya and Maluleke arrested four Zimbabweans in Diepsloot township, near Johannesburg, who were suspected of killing a Chief Superintendent Chatikobo in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

A paper trail seen by the Sunday Times shows that Witness Ndeya, his nephew Shepherd Tshuma and their friends Nelson Ndlovu and Maqhawe Sibanda were detained at Orlando police station in Soweto before being driven to Beit Bridge on November 8 2010.

Sibanda and Ndlovu were dropped off before reaching the border, but Ndeya and Tshuma were handed over to Zimbabwean police. Days later, Ndeya's bullet-riddled body was released to his relatives at Bulawayo mortuary, a death certificate shows. Tshuma was released and is now in hiding in South Africa, along with Sibanda and Ndlovu.

Sibiya said in a sworn statement to the IPID investigators that he was never involved in any operation where suspects were arrested and deported to Zimbabwe. "I do not even know the suspects mentioned," he said. However, he and Maluleke are implicated directly in sworn statements made by rendition survivors and fellow police officers.

The Sunday Times is aware of several other Zimbabweans who are allegedly the subject of rendition by the same Hawks team, including:

Prichard Tshuma, arrested in November 2010 in Alexandra township, who has since disappeared;

Gordon Dube, arrested in Diepsloot in 2010 and believed to have died in custody; and

John Nyoni, arrested in Diepsloot on January 26 2011. A relative was informed a month later that he had died in police custody from a severe beating and gunshot wounds.

An internal investigation headed by Dramat cleared Sibiya, Maluleke and other Hawks officials of any wrongdoing. In a report last year to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Dramat said Zimbabwean crime suspects in South Africa were arrested by South African police and extradited through formal court processes. Those here illegally without arrest warrants in Zimbabwe were handed to home affairs for deportation.

Dramat's officers suspected that Ndeya, Tshuma, Ndlovu and Sibanda were planning armed robberies in South Africa, but when they could not be linked to any criminal cases they were handed to home affairs for lawful deportation, Dramat said in the report.

However, new documents seen by the Sunday Times suggest that Dramat played a central role in facilitating their alleged rendition. Police memos reveal that Dramat held a meeting in August 2010 with his counterpart in Zimbabwe to discuss "mutual assistance" in apprehending "most-wanted Zimbabwean criminals involved in cross-border crimes".

Sources close to the investigation said Dramat held more meetings with Zimbabwean police officials in South Africa and Zimbabwe shortly before the alleged renditions. They claim the Hawks are withholding more documents allegedly incriminating their boss in the scandal, including travel claims for his trips to Zimbabwe and Limpopo, where he is believed to have met the Zimbabwean officials.

A sworn statement by a Lieutenant-Colonel Madilonga at Beit Bridge border post directly implicates Dramat.

Madilonga said that in October 2010 a convoy of Zimbabwean police officials driving Mitsubishi Tritons arrived at Beit Bridge, headed by a Superintendent Ncube, a detective from a homicide unit in Harare, who said he was on his way to meet Dramat in Pretoria.

Ncube claimed he had made prior arrangements with Dramat to hunt down Zimbabwean cop-killer suspects in South Africa with the Hawks boss's help. When Madilonga protested, Ncube gave him Dramat's cellphone number and told him to call the Hawks boss. Madilonga said Dramat told him he was aware of the visit by the Zimbabweans and should "let them come".

Two weeks later, on November 8, Ncube returned to Beit Bridge with the Hawks's Colonel Maluleke, who showed him home affairs deportation documents for two Zimbabwean cop-killer suspects, Ndeya and Tshuma. The border policeman climbed into Maluleke's sedan, which was followed by another sedan driven by Ncube and carrying Ndeya and Tshuma.

"We never stopped at the border and no documents were stamped for the purpose of deportation," Madilonga said in his statement.

Once in Zimbabwe, they were surrounded by Zimbabwean police, who pulled Ndeya and Tshuma out of the sedan and showed no interest in the home affairs documents, said Madilonga, who claimed Maluleke warned him the operation was "top secret".

Madilonga said that in 2012, once the IPID's investigation was in full swing, Maluleke called to ask him to make a "cover-up" statement.

Investigators now believe that the deportation documents used were fraudulent. Sworn statements by home affairs officials indicate that the detention warrants dated 2010 had been discontinued in 2008, and that illegal immigrants are taken to the department's Lindela deportation facility, not directly to Beit Bridge, with the necessary documents.

"The members of SAPS are not entitled to deport people themselves and it is illegal to do so," the acting deputy director of home affairs at Lindela, Job Jackson, said in a sworn statement.

Sibiya blamed faction fighting between the police's Hawks and crime intelligence divisions. "I don't know anything about this thing. I was not involved and I have never been involved. Crime intelligence is behind this whole thing - I don't know why."

He said the investigation had dragged on for three years. "I'm challenging IPID: let's go to court on Monday."

Maluleke said the allegations were planted by crime intelligence officials unhappy with the Hawks' role in arresting former crime intelligence head Richard Mdluli. "They were in the Mdluli camp, so when he got arrested, they decided whoever was involved in arresting Mdluli, we must take them down," he said.

Maluleke insisted that his unit had done nothing illegal in arresting and handing over the Zimbabweans. "They are Zimbabweans and belong in Zimbabwe. We arrested and removed criminals from South Africa who are terrorising our community," he said.

IPID spokesman Moses Dlamini declined to confirm or deny if Dramat, Sibiya and Maluleke were suspects in the case. Asked why the case had not gone to trial yet, he said: "I'm not going to get into a debate with [Sibiya]. Our investigation is not three years old - it's been just over a year. It's at quite an advanced stage. That's all I'm prepared to say."

Dramat said he was "not prepared to talk about it or comment" on the case.

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