Suspended South Africa Police Unit Head Blames Interference

Anwa Dramat, head of South Africa’s specialist police unit known as the Hawks, was suspended because he refused to hand over cases he was investigating to authorities, his lawyer said.

Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko “clearly got an instruction” to get rid of Dramat, his attorney Johann Nortje said by mobile phone yesterday. Dramat was “dealing with sensitive matters which he is not willing to hand over to the police commissioner because she is not entitled to interfere with his work,” he said.

Dramat was suspended for 60 days from Dec. 23 pending an investigation into allegations of his involvement in illegal rendition of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010. He was earlier cleared of wrongdoing by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the opposition Democratic Alliance party said today, citing Nortje.

Nortje said Dramat is being “targeted” because of his work, without disclosing details about the cases he was investigating. The Johannesburg-based Sunday Times reported on Dec. 28 that Dramat refused to hand over files relating to Nkandla, President Jacob Zuma’s homestead, a 60 million-rand ($5.2 million) fraud case, and an investigation into a senior ruling-party official in the Northern Cape province.

Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega and Dramat never discussed the investigations referred to in the Sunday Times and she didn’t request any files to be submitted, her spokesman Solomon Makgale said in a mobile-phone text message.

Suspension ‘Unconstitutional’

The suspension is an “interference in the unit” and “unconstitutional,” Nortje said. Dramat may approach the courts if he isn’t reinstated by next week, he said.

Zuma, 72, has faced increasing criticism from opposition political parties after the graft ombudsman said in a March 19 report that he should repay part of the 215 million rand in public funds spent on renovating his home in Nkandla, in KwaZulu-Natal province. The ruling African National Congress and a ministerial task team absolved Zuma of blame.

The South African Police Service’s Hawks unit isn’t investigating the security upgrades at Zuma’s home in Nkandla, Paul Ramaloko, a SAPS spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “It is being investigated by the National Investigation Unit,” he said.

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