Hawks boss pleads for R100m helicopter to help bust crime

Cape Town – Not having a helicopter was hampering the work of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, Hawks head Lieutenant General Berning Ntlemeza told Parliament on Tuesday.

Pleading for extra funds from the police committee, Ntlemeza said operating without a helicopter was affecting their crime busting initiatives. 

It was not "nice" having to carry out these operations, he said, without the proper tools. "You have to deal with distance and forestry most of the time."

Requesting R100m for the helicopter, and further funds for licencing and the building of a landing space, the general said they were praying that the money would be made available.

Without a helicopter, sensitive operations, including the fight against rhino horn poaching, were not being conducted optimally.

He likened the Hawks to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

International operations affected

"The Hawks are equal to the FBI. The FBI has got jets, helicopters and not just one, for when one is grounded. We are only asking for one, but that's even not enough."

He asked the committee to help them to either buy the helicopter, or lease it, as there were only six months of the financial year left.

"Really there is a need for this helicopter, whether it is bought or leased we would appreciate it for the purpose of dealing with these kinds of operations," he said. 

There were also international operations, he said, which suffered due to the lack of a helicopter.

"Please. This is just a once off, once the amount is approved. So can the committee help us, and Treasury open the purse," he said.

While MPs were mostly positive about the acquisition of the helicopter, there were concerns raised.

Specifics 

These included a question from DA MP Zakhele Mbhele, who wondered if the figure was converted from dollars.

"To say R100m is scary. So where does it [the amount] come from?" he said.

Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald wanted specifics about the helicopter, as it sounded expensive.

"I would like to know what type of helicopter you are looking for? Is it an attack helicopter? Just imagining you wiping out everyone in the country," he said.

EFF MP Phillip Mhlongo told the committee it would be advisable to come up with a mechanism to make the helicopter accessible to the Hawks.

Throughout the meeting, the Hawks head was asked various questions on the entity's delivery rate, their successes and future plans. He never passed up the opportunity to remind members how useful a helicopter would be in conducting their work.

He said the R100m was what they had been quoted by "people in the know".

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