Hawks legislation will go to Cabinet in October

2011-08-16 10:52

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

“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, which set up the Hawks or Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, 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 today by the director of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, on the court judgment, but legislators were not given insight into the amendments being drafted.

Committee chairwoman 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.

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 required the Hawks to submit guidelines to Parliament, the legislature’s powers were insufficient to remedy the lack of independence that flowed 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.

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

The DA accused him of trying to escape oversight.

An ANC MP said legislators 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 ANC 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.

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