20th March, 2017
South Africa’s police minister will fight a court order to remove the head of an elite police investigation unit, popularly known as the Hawks, after the court ruled his appointment unlawful, media said on Monday.
Berning Ntlemeza was appointed in 2015 to lead the powerful Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation, but two domestic non-government bodies, Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation, applied to the High Court to have Ntlemeza removed on the grounds that he was unfit for the office.
Sandile Ngidi, a spokesman for Police Minister Nathi Nhleko, said he was appealing against Friday’s ruling, eNCA television reported. Ntlemeza will stay on while the appeal was processed, the report added.
Reuters could not immediately reach Ngidi for comment.
The integrity of the Hawks has been called into question by domestic media and NGOs, over the unit’s role in a graft case against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, which critics say was part of a political agenda.
Charges in that case were withdrawn in 2016.
Gordhan was set to face two charges of fraud linked to his rubber-stamping of early retirement for Pillay, a former deputy SARS deputy commissioner, and then reappointing him on contract in 2010, during the minister’s first stint as the head of the Treasury.
The National Prosecuting Authority withdrew the summons against Gordhan and former South African Revenue Service (SARS) officials Oupa Magashula and Ivan Pillay.