24 December 2014
Last updated at 18:39
South African police are said to have cooperated with their Zimbabwean counterparts
A top South African policeman has been suspended over allegations that he was involved in the illegal rendition of Zimbabweans.
Anwar Dramat would remain suspended pending the outcome of investigations, a police ministry spokesman said.
Local media reported in 2011 that a young man had been illegally handed to Zimbabwean police who were suspected to have murdered him.
At the time, Mr Dramat’s office denied involvement in any wrongdoing.
Mr Dramat was the head of South Africa’s elite Hawks unit which investigated organised crime.
Rendition involves sending someone from one country to another for imprisonment and interrogation that would be illegal in the country doing the rendering.
‘Murder and robbery’
“Yes. He [Mr Dramat] has been suspended pending further investigations into the Zimbabwean rendition,” police ministry spokesman Musa Zondi is quoted by the South African Press Association as saying.
South Africa’s independent police watchdog body had investigated the allegations against Mr Dramat and had submitted its findings to prosecutors for a decision on whether or not to charge him, according to local media reports.
Mr Dramat has not commented since his suspension.
Zimbabwean opposition activists have repeatedly been assaulted and tortured by the police and army
South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper reported in 2011 that senior officials in the Hawks and other police units were conducting illegal “renditions” with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
It had evidence indicating that a 26-year-old Zimbabwean, Witness Ndeya, was “renditioned” by the Hawks and then murdered, apparently by Zimbabwean police, the newspaper reported.
In another case, intelligence reports indicated that Pritchard Tshuma, 24, was arrested for murder and robbery in Johannesburg and “deported” to Zimbabwe, where he went missing, The Sunday Times said.
In a third case, a man named Gordon Dube was arrested and “renditioned” to Zimbabwe where he was apparently killed by police after having his hands chopped off, it added.
Responding to the allegations at the time, Mr Dramat’s spokesman McIntosh Polela said: “At no point did we simply hand over people to authorities without [an immigration official present], because that would constitute rendition.”
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans live in South Africa, sometimes illegally.
Many of them say they fled to South Africa to avoid persecution by President Robert Mugabe’s government or to escape poverty.
South Africa and Zimbabwe are strong diplomatic allies.