The suspension of senior officials in crime fighting agencies causes significant reputational harm, High Court in Pretoria Judge Elias Matojane said on Friday.
“The suspensions have a negative impact on public confidence and the rule of law, and importantly have the unintended consequence that the employee suffers palpable prejudice to his reputation and advancement,” he said.
“It follows therefore, in my view, that employees should only be suspended pending a disciplinary hearing only if there are compelling reasons and the suspension should be a last resort.”
Matojane ruled that the suspension of Gauteng Hawks boss Maj-Gen Shadrack Sibiya was unconstitutional, invalid and unlawful.
The court also declared invalid the appointment of Maj-Gen Elias Dlamini to replace Sibiya as acting Gauteng boss of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI).
In court papers, Sibiya accused the Hawks acting national head Maj-Gen Berning Ntlemeza of being motivated by the desire to take revenge on behalf of his “ally”, suspended police crime intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli.
Ntlemeza suspended Sibiya pending an investigation into his alleged role in the illegal rendition of Zimbabweans to that country’s police in 2010.
Sibiya claimed in an affidavit that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) had exonerated him from any involvement in the rendition, and that he did not know why he was suspended.
Matojane said Ntlemeza was fully aware of the Ipid investigations initiated in February 2012. The Ipid probe was submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision.
“Ipid has advised the applicant [Sibiya] in writing that it did not recommend that he should be prosecuted or suspended due to lack of evidence in the commission of the alleged offences,” said Matojane.
“Third respondent [Ntlemeza] was repeatedly challenged to produce the Ipid and the integrity unit reports and has refused to take the court and the applicant [Sibiya] into his confidence by making the reports available because they vindicate the applicant.”
The judge ordered Ntlemeza to pay Sibiya’s legal costs.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the police had a “very serious case” against Sibiya.
“In due time the public will know what is going on. We are dealing with senior counsel. There is certain information that we have said we are not putting in the public arena for now,” said Mulaudzi.
“There are other cases that we are looking at. We will be able to put these matters in front of everyone so that they know what we are talking about.”
Last month, another high court judge ruled that Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko’s decision to suspend Hawks boss Anwa Dramat was invalid and unlawful.
“The order which I make is the following: It is declared that the decision of the minister of police to suspend Lt-Gen Anwa Dramat, the national head of the DPCI, is unlawful and invalid,” Judge Bill Prinsloo found.
“It is declared that the decision of the minister, appointing Maj-Gen Berning Ntlemeza as acting national head of the DPCI is unlawful and invalid. That decision is set aside.”
Earlier this month, the High Court in Pretoria dismissed Nhleko’s application for leave to appeal the overturning of Dramat’s suspension.
Nhleko was ordered to pay the costs of the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), which brought the application for Dramat’s reinstatement.
The HSF had approached the court asking it to set aside Nhleko’s decision to suspend Dramat and the subsequent appointment of Ntlemeza.
Dramat was suspended on December 23, pending a probe into his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabweans in November 2010. SAPA