Ousted Hawks head General Berning Ntlemeza has been found to be dishonourable and allowing him back at work would irreparably harm the reputation of the Hawks, the High Court in Pretoria has heard.
Ntlemeza applied for an urgent order to immediately get his job back, arguing that Police Minister Fikile Mbalula had acted unlawfully by refusing him permission to return.
Ntlemeza also wants the court to interdict Mbalula from “intimidating” him and making public statements “which subject him to ridicule”.
Counsel for Ntlemeza, Adv Nceba Dukada SC, argued that Ntlemeza was entitled by law to return to his position with the same benefits as before, as his appeal against an enforcement order automatically suspended that order.
In March, a full bench of the high court set aside the previous police minister Nathi Nhleko’s decision to appoint Ntlemeza in the top post and found that he was not fit to hold office in light of two court judgments which found that he had lied under oath and was dishonourable.
The court last month granted an order enforcing that ruling despite any appeal that may be lodged.
Dukada, however, argued that Mbalula had acted unlawfully from the minute Ntlemeza lodged his appeal against the enforcement order with the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) when he refused Ntlemeza entry into his office and refused to recognise him as head of the Hawks.
Ntlemeza’s appeal will be heard in Bloemfontein on June 2.
Dukada argued that the date of the appeal was immaterial and that the high court could not condone Mbalula’s “continued unlawful conduct” against his client.
He described the minister’s opposition to his application as “frivolous”, stressing that the minister was “degrading” Ntlemeza’s reputation.
Ntlemeza said in court papers it was clear that Mbalula, with his “bellicose speech, military attitude” and “weird conduct” was on the warpath against him and accused the Minister of not respecting the legal process.
Counsel for the minister, Adv Nazeer Cassim SC, accused Ntlemeza of trying to score “power political points” before his appeal.
He said a full bench of the high court had found Ntlemeza to be dishonourable and not fit for office. That ruling remained in place since both the high court and the SCA refused Ntlemeza leave to appeal against it.
Cassim said it was therefore a jurisdictional fact that Ntlemeza did not have the capacity to fill the post and the minister was correct when he complied with the enforcement order.
Cassim argued that Ntlemeza’s continued occupation of the position would cause irreparable harm to the reputation of Hawks and the public’s perception of the integrity of the head of the Hawks.
“He has demonstrated that he’s not worthy of the office. A full court found this man to be dishonorable and not fit for office. How can [he] say there’s a degradation of his status? He’s lucky he’s being paid pending his appeal,” Cassim said.
Judge Sheila Mpahlele will give judgment on Thursday.