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#Ntlemeza reportedly back at work despite protests

Politics
Pretoria – As reports emerged on Monday morning that Berning Ntlemeza, disgraced former Hawks head had sneaked back into the elite police unit's head offices in Pretoria, avoiding a contingent of news crews and protesters at the main entrance, the Democratic Alliance intensified its campaign for his immediate ouster.

DA spokesperson on police, Zakhele Mbhele, led a handful of protesters at the main entrance of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), popularly known as the Hawks.

Journalists from different media houses had also been camping at the Cresswell Street main entrance for several hours on Monday morning.

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Lt-Gen Berning Ntlemeza

"We have urged Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to take steps to effect the suspension of Mr Ntlemeza in the meantime, which can be done by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Police initiating an inquiry into Ntlemeza's fitness for office. That will then empower the minister to suspend him while the parliamentary inquiry is underway," Mbhele told journalists.

"We believe that Parliament and the minister cannot be idle while this governance crisis and the leadership of Hawks is under question."

Mbhele said he was not aware of Ntlemeza's reported presence at the Hawks headquarters.

"We currently don't have confirmation as to whether Ntlemeza is already in his office. If that is the case, then it is a clear case of a violation of the rule of law. There is a very clear prima facie case against him. He is not fit to occupy this office. His being here amounts to interference and a threat to the effective functioning of the Hawks," said Mbhele.

"We will certainly be pushing for steps to be taken further in Parliament for the suspension to take place."

The DA members were chanting "Ntlemeza must go". Numerous police officers were milling at the main entrance.

Earlier this month, Mbalula said he had instructed acting national police commissioner Johannes Phahlane to recoup all state assets from Ntlemeza.

"I have explained to the top management of the Hawks that it is important that we move in concert going forward. There was nobody who was here to serve an individual," Mbalula said at a media briefing in Pretoria.

"We are all here to save the country. To that effect, I have directed [Lieutenant] General Phahlane , to get everything that belongs to the state from General Ntlemeza, as of immediate effect.

"That [the state assets in Ntlemeza's possession] must be handed over to the new acting head of Hawks Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata."

At the same event, Mbalula announced the appointment of Matakata as the new acting national head of the Hawks.

"On April 12, I the minister of police took a decision to withdraw the appeal lodged at the Supreme Court of Appeal, on the case brought by Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law (FUL). This means I must give effect to the [High Court] order of March 17 and set aside General [Berning] Ntlemeza's appointment," said Mbalula.

"My responsibility is to work in the interest of South Africans, to guard against wasteful and irregular expenditure. I believe this case lacked [any] prospect of success on appeal. This case had the mission of the DPCI, and created a bad impression to the public."

Mbalula said in an effort to bring stability to the elite crime fighting police unit, a permanent head will be appointed over the Hawks.

Ntlemeza's appointment was nullified by the High Court in Pretoria.

This month, the court ruled that its earlier finding that Ntlemeza was not a fit and proper person to lead the Hawks should come into immediate effect even though he has appealed the ruling.

Subsequently, Mbalula also withdraw the appeal lodged at the Supreme Court of Appeal against the finding that Ntlemeza's appointment was "irrational and unlawful".

Ntlemeza was appointed permanently to the position by former Police Minister Nathi Nhleko in September 2015, despite Judge Elias Matojane having found that the General "lacks integrity and honour" and had lied under oath.

Subsequently, the FUL and Helen Suzman Foundation brought arguments before the court saying Ntlemeza was not fit and proper to hold office – the court agreed with them.

Last month the court ruled that Ntlemeza lacks the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to occupy any public office, and declared his appointment invalid and unlawful. The then police minister Nhleko appealed the ruling.

Hawks spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said he would not answer questions on Ntlemeza, referring all questions to Mbalula's office.

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