Still too much political influence in Hawks

2013-12-15 14:01

The Western Cape High Court has found that Parliament has again failed to secure an adequate degree of independence for the unit that is supposed to fight corruption in South Africa.

In a judgment handed down on Friday, a full bench of the court found that various sections of the legislation which governs the Hawks?–?the unit meant to replace the graft-busting Scorpions?–?were still unconstitutional.

This follows a Constitutional Court ruling in 2011.

It found that adequate ­mechanisms to prevent political interference in the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation ­(DPCI), known as the Hawks, were “signally [sic] lacking”.

The 2011 case, which was brought to court by businessman Hugh Glenister, found that there was a constitutional requirement for a sufficiently independent ­corruption-fighting unit.

It is this second attempt at securing an independent Hawks unit that has now been found constitutionally wanting, after the act was again challenged by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF).

Friday’s unanimous judgment by judges Siraj Desai, Andre le Grange and Judith Innes Cloete found that:

»?The appointment process of the Hawks’ head lacks adequate criteria and vests an unacceptable degree of political control with the police minister and Cabinet;

»?The power vested in the minister to extend the 10-year term for the Hawks’ head was “intrinsically inimical to the requirement of adequate independence”;

»?Provisions of the act around the suspension and removal of the Hawks’ head “vests an inappropriate degree of control in the minister”; and

»?There is an “unacceptable ­degree of political oversight in the jurisdiction of the Hawks”.

The order of constitutional invalidity has been suspended for 12 months to allow Parliament to fix the problems with the act.

Although the HSF was awarded costs in the matter because it was “substantially successful”, the judges had harsh words for Glenister, who was also party to the case.

“There can be little doubt that Glenister had been lucky to piggy-back on the HSF’s well-presented case and the lucid and helpful arguments of its counsel,” they said.

The court ordered Glenister to pay his own costs because “even though the outcome was one sought by him, it cannot be said that his contribution was in any way meaningful”.

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