Elite police units will be dispatched to retrieve all State property from former Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza if he fails to comply with current orders, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday.
“If there is anything still in his possession that belongs to the State, it’s not supposed to be there. I have made that clear to [acting national police commissioner] General [Kgomotso] Phahlane. He is here next door and he will give me a briefing on whether there are still issues,” Mbalula said as he addressed journalists at the SA Police Service training academy in Pretoria.
“If General Ntlemeza, let me make it clear, is not going to return State property peacefully, we will retrieve it forcefully by law from him. If it means I must send the [Special] Task Force or the [National] Intervention Unit, because he is armed and dangerous, I will do so. The law permits me to do that. I can sanction that now. He is not above the law.”
Mbalula said before he left the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) headquarters in Silverton, east of Pretoria, on Monday, Ntlemeza had returned a State vehicle he had taken. However, the minister was not sure if Ntlemeza had returned the government-owned mobile phone.
Mbalula, however, said he was not at war with Ntlemeza.
“I have actually been patient on this particular matter and acted in a civilised manner, respecting him. We must deal with that in the context of the law and that is permissible. There is no war here. We must not play gimmicks. If people are entitled and they feel that they have been unfairly dealt with by the minister, let them approach the courts,” he said.
“General Ntlemeza’s lawyers are very provocative, and they know how to play the law. They are playing all of you who are actually law illiterates. They are tossing you up and down. You can entertain them, leave me out of that game. I’m a law expert now. I know the law. I’m the minister of police, I’m not blind to the law. The law will never be fair to me if I act in an illiterate manner.”
Mbalula said the media was entertaining “voodoo lawyers” on the Ntlemeza matter.
“If he [Ntlemeza] thinks he is entitled to come to work, tell him to go to the Hawks offices. He will not see me but he will see me there in terms of the law. I’m very clear about it,” he said.
On Monday, Mbalula instructed Phahlane to find Ntlemeza and seize the State vehicle and cellphone from him.
“We’ve been informed that General Ntlemeza entered the management meeting of the Hawks, at the Hawks headquarters this morning, and he ordered the head of supply chain to give him a car which is now roaming around the streets of Pretoria or wherever he is this afternoon. He also has a cellphone of government in his possession, and whatever that he has got,” Mbalula told journalists at the headquarters of the Hawks.
“I have communicated with General Phahlane before I came in here, that all of that must be found and brought back to the state, and all shall be in order. Should anybody enter these premises, in whatever guise, it is illegal and that person must be arrested with immediate effect.”
It emerged on Monday morning that Ntlemeza sneaked back into the elite police unit’s head offices in Pretoria, avoiding a contingent of news crews and protesters at the main entrance.
Ntlemeza’s appointment was nullified by the High Court in Pretoria.
This month, 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.
Subsequently, Mbalula 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, Freedom Under Law and the 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. Then police minister Nhleko appealed the ruling before Mbalula’s intervention.