Cape terror-buster appointed fight organised crime


Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has appointed Western Cape deputy provincial commissioner Anwar Dramat (pictured) the head of the new Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI) from July 1.

The Cape Times reports Dramat was a underground operative for the now-ruling African National Congress (ANC) during the liberation era and served time on Robben Island as a political prisoner.

News 24 adds Mthethwa said that Dramat had served within the command structures of the South African Police Services since 1995, working within crime intelligence and dealing with serious crimes.

The online news service added Western Cape Police Commissioner Mzwandile Petros spoke about his former deputy in glowing terms, saying his anonymity was necessary during his former deployment when he worked to combat drug dealing and gangsterism in the Western Cape.

He was also instrumental in dealing with militant group People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD). The US State Department considered PAGAD an Islamist terrorist group.  

“For me as provincial commissioner there is no doubt that the skills he picked up working the this province will benefit the whole country,” said Petros.

Mthethwa said it wasn’t a problem that Dramat was relatively unknown to the public as he had proved himself in the past. “The unknown is going to be known,” joked Mthethwa. “But those of us in this field know his work and know what he has been doing.”

Newly-appointed Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe called Dramat “one of the most successful underground combatants”.

News24 adds the announcement at Mandela Rhodes Place in Cape Town yesterday was greeted with surprise.

It had long been speculated that the job would go to Willie Hofmeyr, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Asset Forfeiture Unit and Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions.

Hofmeyr was pivotal in negotiations between the NPA and lawyers for President Jacob Zuma earlier this year, when the defence team produced tapes suggesting political meddling in the case, the SA Press Association reported.

He was also involved in drafting the law establishing the unit and headed the NPA component of a task team thrashing out the details of transferring the workload of the Directorate of Special Operations, also known as the Scorpions, to the new unit.

Unlike the DSO that was part of the NPA, the DPCI will fall under the police.

A softly-spoken Dramat made a short thank you speech, saying: “I remain deeply humble. My life has been characterised by my desire to ensure that our country is as peaceful as possible.”

He committed himself to work “for all South Africans” to help rid country of fraud, corruption and organised crime.

But questions remain about his independence and willingness to investigate his former comrades, should the need arise.

The Scorpions was established in 1999 against the wishes of opposition parties to fight organised crime. Good public relations, a low caseload and the “cherry-picking” of police cases close to finalisation quickly made the unit a media and opposition party darling. Its investigation of a number of high-profile ANC cadres, including former party chief whip Tony Yengeni, police chief Jackie Selebi as well as Zuma, enhanced its reputation in the public eye.

The ANC`s 2007 Polokwane conference voted overwhelmingly to disband the Scorpions, saying the existence of two detective agencies violated the 1996 Constitution that foresaw a single policing agency. Opposition parties counter-argued this was not an obstacle in 1999 when the unit was created as “SA`s Federal Bureau of Investigation” and that the Scorpions was being punished for exposing wrongdoing by members of the ruling party.

But tapes released last month by the National Intelligence Agency – in circumstances subject to an investigation by the Inspector General of Intelligence – showed that the unit had been badly abused by factions in the ANC to settle political scores and win internal battles.

The majority opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party said it “notes” the appointment. Party policing spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard says the “test will now be to ensure that the new unit acts without fear or favour when confronting any form of criminality, but most especially corruption.”

She adds the major challenge facing the new head of the DPCI will be to establish the autonomy of the unit, “which has been considerably reduced by its location within the Department of Police. The DA maintains that the move of the unit to this department is an excessive centralisation of power.”

DPCI investigators will be selected, supervised and funded by the police, who could undermine the fight against corruption in the police service, as the police are unlikely to investigate themselves, Kohler Barnard says.

“It is a top priority for Mr Dramat to assert the DPCI`s independence, otherwise the integrity of the unit will be compromised. The DA continues to believe that a priority crime unit located within the Justice Department, such as the Scorpions, represents a better model to fight crime and corruption than a unit within the SAPS.”

Meanwhile, about 800 recruits from both the police and the Scorpions are being vetted by the National Intelligence Agency. Those who pass clearance will serve in the DPCI.