‘Throw out Hawks Bill or risk failed state status’

2012-03-27 13:12

Paul Hoffman’s Institute for Accountability in SA has warned Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police that South Africa risks “failed state status” if the committee does not throw out the police’s new Hawks Bill.

Hoffman’s has made a submission to the committee. The deadline for public submissions to the portfolio committee on the proposed legislation is at midnight tonight.

The new bill is a result of the Constitutional Court’s decision in the Glenister case last year, when it found the unit was insufficiently insulated from politics to function as a corruption-busting unit.

In Hoffman’s submission, he said the criteria set out in the Constitutional Court’s decision “appear to have been ignored by those who drafted the bill”.

“The committee is accordingly to reject the bill and send the drafters back to the drafting table with an instruction to come up with a new formulation that is better able to withstand judicial scrutiny,” said Hoffman.

The police’s legal services division and civilian secretariat tabled the new bill in Parliament earlier this month.

It sparked an immediate debate between ANC and opposition MPs on whether the new bill complied with the Constitutional Court’s requirements.

The proposed bill has given Parliament greater oversight of the Hawks unit and limited the powers of the ministerial oversight committee.

But opposition parties and civil rights groups are still unhappy that the unit is located within the police.

As Hoffman says in his submission to Parliament: “The SAPS is under the control of the Minister of Police. It is structurally incapable of housing a unit that is able to function properly without fear, favour or prejudice – which is what independence really entails.”

Hoffman has recommended that a separate unit with the status of a Chapter Nine institution, such as the Public Protector, be created.

Hugh Glenister, the businessman who originally took the matter to the Constitutional Court, has also indicated that he would be unwilling to accept that the Hawks would continue to remain within the police.

Jenny Irish-Qhobosheane, head of the civilian secretariat for police, defended the bill in Parliament, saying that the Constitutional Court had not required the police to establish a corruption-fighting unit outside the structures of the police.

She said it had merely required a “sufficiently independent” unit.

In terms of the Constitutional Court’s judgment, Parliament has until September to finalise the new legislation.

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