17/03/2017 15:28 SAST | Updated 17/03/2017 15:28 SAST

Who Is Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza, The Man Who May Now No Longer Lead The Hawks?

The man has been mired in repeated scandals, even before the High Court declared his appointment as Hawks boss unlawful.

Hawks boss Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza inspects a drug manufacturing factory during a drug bust in De Deur on June 08, 2016 in Vereeniging, South Africa.
Felix Dlangamandla / Beeld / Gallo Images
Hawks boss Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza inspects a drug manufacturing factory during a drug bust in De Deur on June 08, 2016 in Vereeniging, South Africa.

The high court in Pretoria struck down the appointment of Mthandazo Berning Ntlemeza as the head of The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) on Friday. In 2015, he was permanently appointed to the position through an irregular process, and the case was brought against him by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law.

So who is Ntlemeza, and why did civil society go to court to have him removed?

Ntlemeza led the fight against finance minister Pravin Gordhan in 2016

In a now-infamous incident, the Hawks sent 27 questions to finance minister Pravin Gordhan in relation to an apparent "rogue unit" located within the revenue services (during his tenure as commissioner), just before he was due to deliver the 2016 Budget Speech. This came just two months after President Jacob Zuma had fired finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, and then quickly replaced him with Gordhan after an almighty furore.

The Hawks then spent months hounding Gordhan about his involvement in the set-up of the so-called rogue unit. When that wouldn't stick, they tried to nail him for deputy commissioner Ivan Pillay's early retirement. That too didn't work.

Ntlemeza "lacks integrity and honour"

Prior to his permanent appointment in 2015, Ntlemeza was found by the courts to have lied under oath. Judge Elias Matojane famously said that he, as acting head of Hawks at the time, "lacks integrity and honour." For the police to go ahead and appoint him anyway, in spite of this adverse finding, went against the spirit of the Constitution.

Last year, the court also heard that the committee which had appointed him was "ill-equipped", as it had not referred to the judgement against him in reaching its decision.

He withheld critical information from the court in the Shadrack Sibiya case

Ntlemeza's appointment came after the removal of Anwa Dramat. He and Shadrack Sibiya, the Gauteng head of the Hawks, were fired for their alleged involvement in an illegal renditioning scandal. Sibiya was exonerated by two separate Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) reports, which Ntlemeza ignored. In the court case brought by Sibiya, the judge found that Ntlemeza had purposefully "elected to withhold from the court the IPID report and the docket that was in his possession, to enable the court to make a proper assessment of the strength or otherwise of the case against the applicant."

Protector of the disgraced former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli

What made Sibiya's firing all the more suspicious was the fact that he had been investigating Richard Mdluli, at the time the head of the crime intelligence unit, for his role in the murder of his ex-girlfriend's husband. When an inquest was first held into this murder, Ntlemeza submitted a report which cleared Mdluli. Charges were eventually dropped - but the Supreme Court of Appeals stepped forward and forced the police to reinstate them. The case is ongoing.

He ignored an adverse report against a police officer, allegedly his daughter's boyfriend

Investigative reporters amaBhungane discovered that Ntlemeza had ignored a report sent to him by Lieutenant Boitumelo Ramahlaha, who alleged that another police officer was defrauding the SAPS with false travel claims.

"Ramahlaha claimed Ntlemeza had failed to act on a report sent to him by Ramahlaha that one of his other officers was defrauding the police by making false travel claims. Ramahlaha alleged Ntlemeza protected the officer because the man was dating Ntlemeza's daughter," amaBhungane reported. IPID, at the time headed by Robert McBride, investigated. However, after he too was suspended over the fallout of the renditions case, Ramahlaha realised that the Hawks were now pursuing a case against him. He opened a new case in May last year when he discovered that dockets from his original case were missing.