Committee signs off Hawks bill

2012-05-17 07:53

Cape Town - Parliament's portfolio committee on police on Wednesday approved draft legislation to restructure the Hawks after amending it to make the elite unit answer to the minister, not the national commissioner.

The last minute change was brought on the advice of parliamentary law advisers, who said keeping the unit under the command of the commissioner would leave the bill vulnerable to another Constitutional Court challenge if it became law.

The bill, an amendment to the SA Police Service Act, was drafted in response to the court's landmark Glenister ruling last year that found the Hawks or Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) unit was not sufficiently independent.

Reporting line

"The issue of the reporting line of the head of the directorate has not been clarified. The national commissioner could claim that the head should report to him or her," legal adviser Nthuthuzelo Vanara said of the earlier version.

"It would compromise the structural independence of the head of the DPCI."

The bill was then changed to state explicitly that the head of the Hawks would report to the police minister.

The issue was repeatedly raised in public hearings on the bill last month.

Legal and security experts warned that the unit would not be seen as independent if it answered to the commissioner - essentially a political appointment.

All political parties voted in favour of the final version, with the exception of the Democratic Alliance. DA MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard said she needed to consult further with her party.

Committee chairperson Sindi Chikunga said the bill would be debated by the National Assembly on May 23.

She said she was convinced that the bill would pass constitutional muster.

"I'm not scared of anybody taking us to the Constitutional Court. And even if they did, it will assist us in now for once and all having a bill that has passed the court test."

Other last-minute changes made to the bill on Wednesday included amendments to give the members of the elite corruption fighting unit greater security of tenure.

The head of the Hawks will now be appointed for a term of between seven and 10 years. He can no longer be suspended without pay and suspension has to be followed by an inquiry headed by a sitting or retired judge.

Political meddling

The committee also reduced the role of the ministerial and operational oversight committee - seen as allowing room for political meddling - and gave some of these functions to the minister.

In a change requested by Hawks director Anwa Dramat, the bill states that the unit may request assistance from crime intelligence for a designated period.

The ANC said this clause clearly limited the duration and nature of the assistance.

MP Anneliese van Wyk said this was vital because one of the reasons for the controversial disbanding of the unit's predecessor, the Scorpions, was that it had illegally established an intelligence capacity.

The police secretariat told MPs the final version of the bill successfully ring-fenced the operations and the budget of the Hawks to comply with the judgment.

The minister has to intervene if there is a dispute between the unit and the commissioner about expenditure.

Kohler-Barnard said there was still scope for the commissioner to meddle in operational decisions. "Who prevails if there is a dispute between the national commissioner and the DPCI on whether to investigate?" she asked.

Police secretary Jenny Irish-Qhobosheane replied that the bill allowed the head of the Hawks to hand any case referred to the unit back to a provincial police commissioner, who then had to investigate it.

She stressed that refusing to do so would be a crime.

Kohler-Barnard remained unconvinced. She argued that ultimately provincial commissioners would do the national commissioner's bidding.

  • Alf - 2012-05-17 08:05

    Will minister Mthethwa use the Hawks unit to make further improvements on his private property in KZN? At least he will have the handymen in-house and does not have to use department funds to build walls etc.! The Hawks should act as an indepent unit, separate from SAPS! But that could again lead to ionvestigations that could be embarassing to government! Next they will be renamed the DUCKS! This whole thing stinks!

      William - 2012-05-17 08:24

      Or the Fikawes. Have you heard of the Fikawe bird? It's a small, flightless bird that lives in the tall grass of the Savannah. It runs around jumping up & down going "Where the Fikawe?"

  • Marion - 2012-05-17 08:16

    ... 'one of the reasons for the controversial disbanding of the unit's predecessor, the Scorpions, was that it had illegally established an intelligence capacity.' They increased their collective IQ? Very dangerous indeed. :-)))

  • Wayne - 2012-05-17 08:17

    Now here at last is a move in the right direction. Pity is wasn't amended as a matter of principle or in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, but rather was amended on the basis that if not, it might be challenged in the constitutional court.

  • goyougoodthing - 2012-05-17 08:21

    Someone say Fascist Dictatorship

  • Koos - 2012-05-17 08:26

    Is the minister not a political appointment?

  • Merven - 2012-05-17 08:33

    So nobody can do crime except for Zuma and his cronies...

      NeoAcheron - 2012-05-17 08:48

      ... No no, you got it wrong... Everyone else can DO crime except Zuma and his cronies. You know how "innocent" they are.

      Gavin - 2012-05-17 09:43

      we should have t shirts made - don't steal ! the government doesn't like competition...

  • Gerhard - 2012-05-17 08:34

    For the life of me, I cannot see the difference. Report to a corrupt and criminal commisioner or report to a corrupt and criminal minister. Same thing really. There is absolutely zero integrity in the whole of the ANC government, so it does not make a difference.

      Alan - 2012-05-17 08:52

      So true. When an organisation is rotten from the very top, where is the accountability?

      Ta.Lepzen - 2012-05-17 09:40

      ANC want a unit that is investigating Mdluli to report to a minister who put brakes on the investigation?

      djmain1 - 2012-05-17 11:21

      @Ta.Lepzen - Exactly, for a reason not to accept this bill (and the last-minute changes), we need look no further than the current situation. Mthethwa & Mdluli are both accused of plundering the secret police fund - this is being investigated by the Hawks. How easy would it be for Mthethwa to stop the whole investigation? I think pretty simple esp. for a criminal, immoral bunch like the cANCer. The Hawks should report to parliament - no-one else. Phansi cANCer, phansi!!

  • Pierre - 2012-05-17 08:57

    Hmmm... What if somebody from the public, started up a non-profit organization that did its own investigations into corruption and political crime? What if such an organization is funded by charity (the public) and had a policy of not accepting donations from any gvt. affiliated person? The idea is tempting.

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-05-17 09:04

    Satan magic and the ANC

  • Slick - 2012-05-17 09:05

    hahah! Irrespective of all the blah blah on this issue. Try dealing with the Hawks and the Commercial Crime Unit like I have for the last 2 and a half years on matters affecting the NATION and you will be SIMPLY HORRIFIED at their inabilities and lack of education and expertise and or INTERVENTIONS? Interventions that include investigation and prosecution of Governmental Departments and Individuals, NOT just those perpetrating the many Crimes in the Food and Beverage Industries unabated. Even though all complaints submitted to them have been validated and verified by various other Governmental Departments. One Director and his division in the DAFF ( Department of Agriculture) whom is implicated has stated to me many times... NO GOVERNMENT division or unit, will investigate them. The are ALL ONE Government. What does this tell you??...need I say more other than the Director and the Hawks are highly misinformed and the "time bomb" is about to explode. The Public will know the truth and prosecution against ALL will happen and this includes against the Hawks whom are more aptly the Lame Ducks that they are!

  • Thapelo - 2012-05-17 09:11

    The only thing that south africa needs is a strong powerfull opposition party to take over then each and every party will make sure meet only the puplic interests, non than that we are going to look like mexico or even worse since it began with criminals having rights and police equipments to do crime softly without interference.

  • Gavin - 2012-05-17 09:36

    the ANC are morally bankrupt - the level of arrogance scares me, they seem to think that they can do whatever they please and don't seem to give a sh_t what people think. they don't seem to realise that in the eyes of the world, we are fast becoming another african circus. they've become the very thing they despised. every time a specialised policing unit begins to dig through the ANC's dirt (and there is TONNES and TONNES of it) they're disbanded. I'll be that it's never ocurred to them that if they were honest in all their dealings - they'd have nothing to fear. ignorance (zuma) and arrogance (julius) go hand in hand.

  • danny.levin.351 - 2012-05-17 09:36

    And the point is??? so now another corrupt ANC cadre (and though him the corrupt Prez) will be in control of the HAWKS (only a few days ago 12 of them are accused of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, intereference with investigations, and I'm not even counting their boss) Even the head of the NPA is a politically appointed (inept) CADRE. This "change"s only a smoke screen. They should answer only to the public, perhaps by reporting directly to a committee of high court judges.

  • Loo - 2012-05-17 09:52

    AI .. wonder if they going to make their minds up soon. this all just costs money. They were told from the start !!

  • Slick - 2012-05-17 09:53

    And the Judges are appointed by whom? Does the latest appointee ie. The "Chief" to Con Court the highest court in the land fiasco not ring a Bell.. Hello!! Who appointed the Minister of Police and the Judiciary and Acting Commissioner of Police...??!!

      keith.f.murphy - 2012-06-28 18:45

      mafias bedind the iron curtain thats why they dont ring a bell they ring their balls and spears

  • paulgerber969 - 2012-05-17 13:06

    Hawks should report too Minister of Justice.

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