Briefing Parliament’s police portfolio committee on the matter, he told MPs that after receiving a report on the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean citizens back to that country in 2010 and 2011, he was compelled to act.
“Upon assuming duty, I was inundated with files of alleged misconduct, corruption and atrocities within the SA Police Service. And as the minister of police… I felt duty-bound that I could not ignore such allegations.”
Among these was the matter of the deported Zimbabwean citizens, two of whom had reportedly died in police custody in that country, while others had disappeared.
He said a confidential report by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) put the Hawks, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), at the centre of this matter.
“The allegations made in witness statements in the Ipid report and other documents – which cannot at this stage be disclosed – place the DPCI and its head at the centre of this alleged illegal rendition.”
Nhleko said various regional and international protocols and conventions dealing with extradition had been “flouted” by the illegal rendition.
“The issue before us is about human rights. And it is about violations of those human rights conducted in our name and the name of the state.”
Nhleko said accountabilty was the hallmark of a constitutional democracy.
“I regard accountability as the hallmark of a constitutional democracy, especially from a high office such as the DPCI.
“Similarly, I also do regard myself as accountable within the parameters of my statutory powers, and I am therefore compelled to act against such heinous crimes.”
He had therefore proceeded to suspend Dramat on full pay and benefits as from December 23 last year.
Nhleko said that in doing so he had acted within his powers and the law.
He dismissed allegations of political partisanship in the matter.
“Since this issue arose, a lot has been said… [that] political partisanships were behind the steps that have been taken. Various insinuations and allegations have been made.
“It was even suggested that [I] asked General Dramat to surrender certain files pertaining to some sensitive investigations, Nkandla [President Jacob Zuma’s residence] being one of them. This is not true.
“I respect the work of the Hawks, and I respect that they have got to be sufficiently independent in the conduct of their work.”
Nhleko noted that the matter of Dramat’s suspension had been challenged in court.
Last week, the North Gauteng High Court ruled that Nhleko’s decision to suspend Dramat was unlawful and invalid and should be set aside.
Judge Bill Prinsloo ruled on Friday that Nhleko was not empowered in terms of legislation to suspend the head of the DPCI.
The application challenging Dramat’s suspension was brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation.
Following the judge’s ruling, Nhleko immediately filed an application to appeal against the High Court’s decision.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille has suggested that Dramat’s suspension is politically motivated, but this has been strongly denied by the presidency.