Ex-Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza became the most feared policeman who ran the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation as his little fiefdom when he was appointed in 2014, if testimony by former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture is anything to go by.
Ntlemeza succeeded the soft-spoken struggle stalwart Anwa Dramat.
In his evidence on Friday before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, Booysen pointed to Dramat’s suspension as having been an engineered takeover and marked the opening of floodgates for Ntlemeza to:
- unleash a reign of terror and instilling widespread fear within Hawks up to the most junior staff;
- fire eight Hawks provincial heads who were replaced by pliant seniors; and
- enable the looting of the secret service account by police’s crime intelligence and the capture of the Hawks by the most powerful.
Booysen told Zondo that any mention of Dramat within his earshot, was enough to turn Ntlemeza “berserk”.
“All hell broke loose when General Ntlemeza took over the Hawks.
“I cannot describe it in any other way because the appointment raised red flags.”
Firing the first salvo upon his appointment to demonstrate he was in charge, he called Booysen on December 31, 2014, to prepare for a meeting with him at the Durban offices of KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, which had to take place the following day – January 1, 2015.
Ironically, Ngobeni was the subject of a criminal investigation initiated by Booysen.
Booysen recalled: “In my entire career as a policeman, it was for the first time that I was summoned to a meeting on New Year’s Day. I had to sleep early the previous evening and could not celebrate with my family because the meeting was scheduled for 10am.
“In departure from the normal protocol, General Ntlemeza made his own travel arrangements from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal.”
At the meeting, Ntlemeza wanted to be briefed about the Hawks equity profile in KwaZulu-Natal to be satisfied that Booysen’s office complied with race and gender equality.
But, according to Booysen, the visit was “a ruse to come to KZN and spend time with a suspect facing a criminal investigation”.
“He ended up saying I had too many Indians. These were people I inherited from the disbanded Scorpions unit,” said Booysen.
Another report Ntlemeza demanded from Booysen had to do with his planned trip to Cape Town to meet the suspended Dramat, which he declined.