National Assembly passes Hawks bill

2012-05-23 18:39
Cape Town - The National Assembly passed an amendment bill on Wednesday to restructure the corruption fighting Hawks unit in line with the Constitutional Court's Glenister ruling.

The draft bill generated heated debate, with the ANC asserting that it gave the unit adequate independence, as the court demanded, and the opposition dismissing it as a minimalist attempt to appease the bench.

It was approved by 220 votes to 57.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa defended the lawmakers' decision to leave the directorate for priority crime investigation (DPCI) - better known as the Hawks - in the police force, contrary to proposals from several security and legal experts.

He said there was no international imperative to relocate the unit and the final bill guaranteed the operational and structural autonomy of the unit.

Threats to take it back to court

Sindi Chikunga, the chairperson of the portfolio committee on police, likewise dismissed criticism that the bill failed to go far enough to satisfy the demands of the court.

She said those who threatened to take the legislation back to court, should do so because it would only serve to confirm that it was now constitutional.

"The sooner it happens the better for all of us," Chikunga said.

She said the drafters had taken on board most of the proposals contained in a submission by constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos, who expressed some scepticism that this was the case.

The bill, an amendment to section six of the SA Police Service Act, was reworked at the 11th hour to make the head of the Hawks report to the police minister, and not the national commissioner.

De Vos and others had argued that the unit could never be independent if it answered to the commissioner - a political appointee.

'Fiddling politicians'

ANC MPs also agreed to fix the term of office of the leader of the Hawks at between seven and five years, and introduced measures to ringfence the budgetary processes of the unit.

However, the Democratic Alliance's Dianne Kohler Barnard said her colleagues had missed an opportunity to set up a truly independent anti-corruption unit and had instead "tinkered with the Hawks to comply with the Constitutional Court judgment".

She said it was a mistake to make the head of the unit report to the minister, and that the bill failed to safeguard the Hawks from political interference.

"It is unlikely to persuade the public that it will protect the Hawks from fiddling politicians.

"The unit needs to be located as far from SAPS and the executive as possible."

The Freedom Front Plus also voted against the bill, while the Congress of the People and the African Christian Democratic Party supported it.

The ACDP said it did so because, despite flaws, it believed that given that the Glenister judgment was not unanimous, it would probably pass constitutional muster.
Read more on:    police  |  anc  |  hawks  |  nathi mthethwa  |  pierre de vos  |  dianne kohler barnard  |  legislation

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