Zuma buys time for Hawks

2014-02-02 14:01

President wants more time to fix crime-fighting unit.

President Jacob Zuma and some of his ministers have asked the Constitutional Court for another 18 months to fix the legislation governing the Hawks, the unit that is meant to fight serious organised crime in South Africa.

Zuma, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa have indicated that they will appeal an order by the Western Cape High Court that found the act governing the Hawks still allows for too much political interference.

This means the uncertainty over the Hawks, which replaced the Scorpions, will now drag into its sixth year.

The Constitutional Court originally declared the act unconstitutional in 2011.

The current case follows the Western Cape High Court’s ruling in December, in favour of the Helen Suzman Foundation, which found that the police’s updated act was still unconstitutional.

The court ruled that adequate mechanisms to prevent political interference in the Hawks were still lacking.

The court gave Parliament a year to rectify this, but Zuma and his ministers have argued that this is not enough time.

In court papers filed at the Constitutional Court, Zuma and his ministers ask that Parliament should be given 18 months to fix the legislation.

This because “amendment is complex” and because “the period afforded to Parliament coincides with an imminent national election”.

A source familiar with the Hawks said the unit was demoralised and had lost some of its best investigative capacity from the days of the Scorpions.

City Press has previously reported on the disagreement and the incoherence that has been caused by confusion over the fate of the unit.

The Helen Suzman Foundation has asked the court to confirm the order of constitutional invalidity. It is also asking the Constitutional Court to declare further sections of the act unconstitutional.

One of the sections it is referring to includes a provision that empowers the minister to do “integrity testing” of Hawks members, which the foundation believes is an intimidation tactic.

It believes this could include the bugging of Hawks officers’ phones.

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