Govt still studying Hawks ruling

2011-03-31 13:09

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Cape Town - Government is studying the Constitutional Court judgment on the independence of the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI), commonly known as the Hawks, government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said on Thursday.

"The judgment is being studied in order to fully appreciate its implications," he told a media briefing following Cabinet's regular Wednesday fortnightly meeting.

"An announcement will be made at an appropriate time in this regard. Underline that," Manyi said.

On March 17, the Constitutional Court ruled that current legislation left the Hawks unit vulnerable to political interference.

It said chapter six of the SA Police Service Act, as amended, which enabled the disbanding of the Scorpions and the formation of the Hawks, was constitutionally invalid.

The declaration of invalidity was suspended for 18 months to give lawmakers in Parliament time to rectify the legislation.

Hawks ‘not sufficiently independent’

The court said the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and international agreements on combating corruption, which had been approved by Parliament, required that states create independent anti-corruption entities.

It said the DPCI's activities had to be co-ordinated by Cabinet, and the statute provided that a ministerial committee could determine policy guidelines for the DPCI's functioning and for the selection of national priority offences.

This made the unit vulnerable to political interference, with inadequate safeguards.

"... Conditions of service of the unit's members and in particular those applying to its head make it insufficiently independent.

"Members thus have inadequate employment security to carry out their duties vigorously; the appointment of members is not sufficiently shielded from political influence; and remuneration levels are flexible and not secured.

"These aspects make the unit vulnerable to an undue measure of political influence," the court ruled.
The application was launched by businessman Hugh Glenister.

Accusations of political agenda

Glenister took the case through the courts following a resolution at the ANC's 2007 Polokwane conference that the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), known as the Scorpions, be disbanded.

Government maintained the move was being made to improve crime-fighting capacity.

However, ANC leaders and alliance leaders from the Congress of SA Trade Unions and SA Communist Party repeatedly accused the Scorpions of a political agenda as the unit tried to prosecute President Jacob Zuma for allegedly accepting a bribe facilitated by his former financial adviser Schabir Shaik and French arms company Thint.

After Shaik's conviction and sentence for corruption and fraud, the Scorpions pursued Zuma and Thint, but the case was dropped due to interference in that investigation shortly before Zuma was inaugurated as president.

Plans went ahead to disband the Scorpions, which fell under the National Prosecuting Authority and justice department, and form the DPCI within the SA Police Service.
Read more on:    scorpions  |  hawks  |  jimmy manyi  |  hugh glenister

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