Hawks to be restructured

2011-08-16 21:13

Cape Town - Legislation to restructure the Hawks in accordance with the court ruling that the laws that brought the unit to life were unconstitutional will be tabled to Cabinet in October, police secretary Jenny Irish-Quobosheane said on Tuesday.

"We will be able to take it to the first Cabinet meeting in October," she told Parliament's portfolio committee on police.

"It will be tabled in Parliament in November."

The new legislation needs to be implemented no later than September 17 2012 and Irish-Quobosheane said the intention was to get it to MPs well ahead of the deadline.

The Constitutional Court in March ruled, by a majority of five to four, that Section 6A of the SA Police Service Act, that set up the Hawks or directorate for priority crime investigation (DPCI), was unconstitutional.

The court found that the legislation failed to insulate the Hawks sufficiently from political interference because it gives a ministerial committee the power to co-ordinate the functioning of the unit.

It found that the committee's power to lay down guidelines for the Hawks posed a "plain risk of executive and political influence on investigations".

The court gave Parliament 18 months to remedy the constitutional defects in the Police Service Act.

The portfolio committee was briefed at length on Tuesday by the director of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, on the court judgment, but lawmakers were not given insight into the amendments being drafted.

Committee chair Sindi Chikunga did not allow questions on the content of the amendment bill, telling MPs the purpose of the meeting was rather to get insight into the time frames set for the task.

Police commissioner

Irish-Quobosheane said the police were consulting with academics on the amendments.

Dramat in his presentation said the court had found that the new unit had a "lower status" than the Scorpions, which it replaced, because its members did not have secured remuneration levels.

He also pointed out that the head of the Scorpions could only be removed from office by the president on very clear grounds because he had the status of a deputy national director of public prosecution, whereas the head of the Hawks was accountable to the national police commissioner.

The Constitutional Court found that though the law requires the Hawks to submit guidelines to Parliament, the legislature's powers are insufficient to remedy the lack of independence that flows from the vast powers of the ministerial committee.

The committee consists of the ministers of police, finance, home affairs, intelligence and justice and has the power, along with the head of the Hawks, to determine what the reports to Parliament contain.

Tension

There has been considerable tension between Dramat and lawmakers over the decision to close the last chapters of the investigation into alleged corruption in the arms deal.

The Democratic Alliance accused him of trying to escape oversight.

An ANC MP said lawmakers were "rather relieved" that the court ruling was forcing a law change because the judges had pointed to the same issues in the law that had troubled many in the legislature.

The Hawks were created after the ruling African National Congress decided to disband the directorate of special operations, known as the Scorpions, which also implicated President Jacob Zuma in questionable deals.

The challenge to the legislation enabling the disbanding of the unit was brought by businessman Hugh Glenister.

- SAPA
Read more on:    police  |  scorpions  |  da  |  anc  |  hawks  |  jacob zuma  |  hugh glenister  |  sindi chikunga  |  anwa dramat  |  legislation
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