Lieutenant General Yolisa Matakata has been appointed as the acting national head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI, aka the Hawks).
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula made the announcement on Thursday morning at the Tshwane Police Academy in Pretoria West. He said she would take over all the cases that were under the former national Hawks Head Mthandazo “Berning” Ntlemeza.
He said Ntlemeza would have to pay his own costs for his unsuccessful appeals, saying that as the new police minister he was determined to curb wasteful expenditure.
Mbalula said they withdraw their application in support of Ntlemeza’s appeal to stay in his job because the department was not going to chase fruitless expenditure and it was clear he would not win the case.
He said also he had instructed acting national police commissioner Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane to do a full handover to the new acting head.
“Our actions have not been malicious.
“I told him [Ntlemeza] of my decision to withdraw the court application in person,” Mbalula said.
The minister said the Hawks were not an institution in crisis or in a state of emergency.
“We will regroup as a unit,” he said.
He said the Hawks had done an important and commendable job over the years.
“We must make life unbearable for criminals in South Africa. We must squeeze them,” he said.
Mbalula said the court had accepted the minister’s withdrawal of the application for leave to appeal.
“General Ntlemeza proceeded with his application for leave to appeal and this was dismissed with cost.
“The counterapplication of the Helen Suzman foundation (HSF) that the order of 17 March 2017 be operational and enforceable was granted and the cost for the counterapplication must be paid by Ntlemeza.
“This means we must give effect to the order of 17 March 2017 that set aside Ntlemeza’s appointment.
“The effect is that even if Ntlemeza decided to appeal further the order of 17 march 2017 stands and is not suspended,” Mbalula said.
He went on to say that in line with the DPIC mandate, they expected them to continue to combat, investigate and prevent serious organised crimes, serious commercial crimes and serious corruption committed in both the public as well as the private sectors.
“The DPCI must never be viewed as an institution that does not combat corruption done in the private sector. I have reminded senior management of the DPCI that their job is to fight crime irrespective of who commits the crime, their status in society or their political affiliation.
“As minister of police I want to have a unity of purpose, it must inspire confidence in our people. The DPCI must be that armed elite unit that is clinical in the way it executes its work. In short, it must be the pride our people. Therefore, I have instructed those who feel they are not equal to the task to jump ship.”
Mbalula said he was not going to discuss Ntlemeza’s early retirement. The package of retirement depends on the individual.
“Our duties are to ensure we execute what the court has decided.
“A settlement only applies where there is an agreement, and the courts have decided there is no settlement due from our side,” Mbalula said.
He explained that Matakata’s appointment was merely a matter of following protocol after the courts barred the former head from holding the post.
He said a permanent head of the Hawks would probably be appointed before the end of the year.
Matakata in her turn told the media it was an honour and a privilege to accept the appointment, fulfil her mandate and serve the people of South Africa without fear or favour.
She said she would adhere to the Hawks’ mandate despite any negative perceptions about the crime-fighting directorate.
Sunday Times reported in 2015 that Matakata was formerly the head of the Hawks in the Western Cape and was “previously in the limelight with news reports that a shady businessman had allegedly tried to bribe her‚ unsuccessfully‚ with R1‚000 to stop an investigation into his activities”.
She worked in Crime Intelligence for 15 years and became the provincial head of the same division in the Western Cape in 2008.
Berning Ntlemeza’s appointment had been nullified by the high court in Pretoria the previous day.
Mbalula also gave reasons for why he withdrew the appeal lodged at the Supreme Court of Appeal on the case brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation and Freedom Under Law (FUL) involving Ntlemeza.
On Wednesday 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.
Mbalula, who was recently appointed police minister, on Wednesday also 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, FUL and the Helen Suzman Foundation brought arguments before court saying Ntlemeza was not fit and proper to hold office – the court agreed with them.
Last month the court ruled that Ntlemeza lacked the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to occupy any public office, and declared his appointment invalid and unlawful. The then police minister appealed the ruling.
On Wednesday the court said its findings needed to be acted on immediately – meaning Ntlemeza ceased to be head of the Hawks.