The government will give “priority attention” to the Constitutional Court order to make the Hawks, the graft-busting unit currently run by police boss General Bheki Cele, truly independent from political interference.
“We will soon interact with all relevant role players”, Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe said yesterday. “And (we) will announce ... our roadmap leading towards the implementation of the ... court’s ruling.”
He said government was aware the ruling had to be implemented within 18 months and said the process would likely “involve parliamentary processes”.
In the government’s view the judgment was not a setback but “a call to fortify, through legislation, the ability of our agencies to fight crime and corruption without any possible interference”, he said.
Radebe said the judgment would not affect the ability of the Hawks to carry out their responsibilities in the next 18 months.
“All matters under investigation and all cases in court will be followed to their logical conclusion,” he said.
The court ruling, said constitutional expert Pierre de Vos, was watertight.
Any attempt to make merely cosmetic changes to the structure of the Hawks was “doomed” by the approach taken by the judges who authored it.
The lack of independence of the Hawks under Cele was highlighted by the recent controversy surrounding the lease for new police headquarters in Pretoria.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Cele had acted in an unlawful manner with regard to the lease.
De Vos said if the Hawks were to investigate any possible corruption relating to this deal, Cele would, in effect, be in a position to fire the investigators.
Cele would be able to do so “for any of a number of reasons not officially related to the investigation”.
Against this background, he said, it was going to be difficult for government or Parliament to comply with the judgment “by merely tweaking existing legislation”.
“A completely new institution with far more safeguards to secure its independence will have to be created,” De Vos said.
Cele, through his spokesperson, Nonkululeko Mbatha, declined to comment.
Hugh Glenister, the man who brought the Hawks down, said he was elated that his R3.8-million investment had yielded a “stunning” victory.
He lost four court cases and suffered a lot of ridicule before the court ruled in his favour, but even when he lost, the urge to continue the quest remained, he said.
“I love South Africa and believe we can make it work if we all stand together,” he explained.