Former Hawks head Major-General Berning Ntlemeza Picture: Independent Media
Tshwane – Police Minister Fikile Mbalula revealed on Thursday that he has instructed acting national police commissioner Johannes Phahlane to recoup all State assets from disgraced former Hawks head Berning 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 told a media briefing in Pretoria.

"We are all here to save the country. To that effect, I have directed [Lieutenant] General Phahlane from yesterday (Wednesday), 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.” Mbalula, however, said his actions were not driven by malice towards Ntlemeza.

“As to whether that will be complied with, it is another case. If not, steps will be taken to ensure that there is peace and harmony. There is no need for fighting because our actions have not been malicious. It was to ensure that we implement what, in our view, was in the best interest for South Africans and in the execution of our mandate,” said Mbalula.

On Thursday, Mbalula announced the appointment of Matakata as the new acting national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), popularly known as 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. 

“Drawing from the said provision [Section 17CA of the South African Police Service Act, 1995]and in light of the vacancy created as a result of yesterday’s ruling, it is my honour and privilege to introduce to you the acting national head of the DPCI, Lieutenant-General Matakata,” said Mbalula.

“However, within the short space of time, I will be appointing a permanent head of DPCI.” Ntlemeza’s appointment was nullified by the High Court in Pretoria.

On Wednesday 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. 

Mbalula, who was recently appointed police minister, on Wednesday 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 appealed the ruling.

On Wednesday the court said its findings must be acted on immediately – meaning Ntlemeza ceased to be head of the Hawks. Mbalula has already informed Ntlemeza of this decision and asked for his observance In a related development on Thursday, the appointment of Matakata as acting Hawks head was welcomed by Parliament’s portfolio committee on police.

In a statement, the committee, which exercises oversight over the police and its specialised units, including the Hawks, wished Matakata well following her appointment.

“We are glad that the Minister acted with speed in avoiding any vacuum in the leadership of the DPCI by urgently appointing a tried and tested investigator to temporarily hold the reins,” said committee chairman Francois Beukman.

“We have confidence that Lieutenant-General Matakata will add value in the fight against organised crime and corruption.”