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'Public trust in the Hawks being eroded'

The High Court in Pretoria today postponed a challenge against suspension of the Hawks head.

FILE: Hawks boss Anwa Dramat. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - The Helen Suzman Foundation says for each day that passes with suspended Hawks head Anwa Dramat out of office, the public's trust in the organisation decreases.

But the Police Ministry has hit back at this claim, saying Dramat's replacement Mthandazo Ntlemeza is more than capable of maintaining stability.

Dramat was placed on suspension by Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko at the end of last year for allegedly taking part in the rendition of four Zimbabwean men in 2010.

The High Court in Pretoria today postponed a court challenge against Dramat's suspension to allow Nhleko enough time to file responding affidavits.

In a brief court session today, lawyers for the state argued high-profile investigations would not be compromised but the foundation said that this could not be guaranteed.

The Police Ministry's advocate William Mokhari told the High Court that a postponement of the legal challenge would not lead to any blood on the wall and no harm would be done to the Hawks as an institution.

But David Unterhalter, acting for the foundation, said Dramat's temporary replacement had now been placed in charge of sensitive investigations and had the power to compromise them.

He also questioned the police minister's authority to appoint an acting head of the Hawks, saying the Constitutional Court demanded that the unit be free from political influence.

Unterhalter said Dramat's suspension saga had degraded public confidence in the Hawks, while Mokhari said the minister also wanted to resolve the matter as soon as possible.

SIBIYA DIRECTLY IMPLICATED IN RENDITION

At the same time, the Hawks say its Gauteng unit head Shadrack Sibiya has been directly implicated in the rendition of the four men from Johannesburg to Zimbabwe and has set next Monday as a deadline for him to give reasons why he should not be removed from his job.

Sibiya was served notice of suspension for the second time yesterday, hours before a Labour Court challenge against Ntlemeza.

The unit says it withdrew the first notice to supplement it with additional information.

"Initially, he had indicated that there wasn't enough evidence so at this time we have made sure that we have included everything."

The rendition case was investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and it's still unclear if its outcome, which reportedly clears Sibiya, formed part of his submission to the court.

On Wednesday, the Democratic Alliance in Parliament said Nhleko must reveal if he appointed the acting head of the Hawks in order to purge allies of Dramat.

The minister has been asked appear before Parliament's Police Portfolio Committee later this month to explain what's happening inside the elite unit.