Johannesburg – Former Hawks head Major-General Berning Ntlemeza can petition the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein if he really wants his job back.
It would be his final legal bid to hold on to the post of top cop in the elite police unit.
On Wednesday afternoon, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed his application for leave to appeal the setting aside of his appointment and ordered him to vacate his office with immediate effect.
Speaking to News24 after the ruling, attorney Pooja Dela, representing the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and Freedom under Law (FuL), who brought the application challenging Ntlemeza’s appointment, welcomed the victory.
“Our client’s rights have been vindicated entirely, this is a resounding victory for constitutional democracy,” she said.
A full bench heard Ntlemeza’s appeal which challenged a March court ruling that he was unfit to hold office.
On March 17, Judge Peter Mabuse declared Ntlemeza’s appointment unlawful and invalid and set it aside.
HSF and FuL had brought the application asking the court to refer the appointment back to a selection panel for a new candidate to be selected.
Both Ntlemeza and former minister of police Nathi Nhleko appealed Mabuse’s ruling.
On Wednesday Ntlemeza’s legal counsel, Advocate Nceba Dukada SC, argued that another court could come to a different finding.
He said the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria had placed too much weight on the two previous judgments by High Court Judge Elias Matojane.
Dukada said Ntlemeza had disclosed the two scathing judgments against him to the panel that interviewed him for the job.
The judgments relate to Ntlemeza’s suspension of Gauteng Hawks head Major-General Shadrack Sibiya in 2015.
Sibiya was suspended for his involvement in the alleged illegal rendition of Zimbabwean nationals in 2010.
He challenged his suspension in the High Court and won. Ntlemeza applied for leave to appeal against the Sibiya judgment.
In his ruling in the Sibiya appeal, Matojane found that Ntlemeza had withheld information from both the court and police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
Matojane said armed with this information it could have enabled the court to make a proper assessment.
He found that Ntlemeza lacked “integrity and honour”.
On Wednesday Dukada argued that even Nhleko knew about Matojane’s judgment when he appointed him as head of the priority crimes unit.
Advocate Carol Steinberg, arguing for HSF and FuL, said Ntlemeza was unsuitable for the job because the earlier findings by Matojane were never appealed despite Ntlemeza’s lawyers arguing that Matojane’s comments carried little weight.
The appeal judges agreed.
They said there were no reasonable prospects of the appeal being successful even if it was tried in other courts.
They found that the prospects of success of the appeal were slim, and dismissed the leave to appeal with costs.
“Should he wish to petition the SCA [Supreme Court of Appeal] for further appeal process, they may do so but the effect of the enforcement order is that pending those appeal processes, Ntlemeza is not allowed to go back to office,” said Dela.