The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), known as the Hawks, slammed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane in a damning statement on Wednesday following remarks made by her on Tuesday.
Mkhwebane refused to give a warning statement to the Hawks, which are investigating a complaint of perjury against her.
Accountability Now laid criminal charges of perjury and defeating the ends of justice against Mkhwebane in August. It also lodged a maladministration complaint against her with the very office she heads. In August last year, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) also filed a charge of perjury against Mkhwebane.
Speaking on Tuesday, the public protector said state institutions, including the Hawks, were being abused to "settle scores".
She also suggested the Hawks were not prioritising "serious matters" from her office.
"I refer a lot of serious matters of criminal nature to the Hawks. Such matters hardly ever receive attention and yet there seems to be a prioritisation of trivial matters such as the one in question, which can under no circumstances be referred to as priority crime," Mkhwebane said.
The Hawks said they have "taken note of the perceptions presented to the public" by Mkhwebane.
"The media statement suggests that the DPCI is prioritising a perjury case against the Public Protector, which is not a 'priority crime' but a trivial matter; that the Public Protector refers serious matters to the DPCI but such matters are not receiving attention; and that Public Protector refuses to provide the DPCI with a warning statement regarding perjury as she enjoys immunity under Section 5(3) of the Public Protector Act," Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said.
"The DPCI understands its mandate and focuses on national priority offences as defined in Section 17A of the South African Police Service [Act] 68 of 1995. Unfortunately, the Public Protector has not indicated the law that informs her interpretation of what is labelled 'priority crime' as the Act does not use such terminology.
"All the matters that have been referred to the DPCI by her office are receiving attention. We have not received a concern from the Public Protector that suggest otherwise," Mulaudzi said.
The Hawks said they were also not aware that the Public Protector had exercised her constitutional right to remain silent, after asking the national head of the Hawks, Godfrey Lebeya, to personally request her statement.
"The DPCI has been waiting for her exculpatory statement as expressly requested so that the matter can be tabled before the National Prosecuting Authority for decision."
Docket to be processed without statement
"Now that her refusal has been made known via the media, the DPCI shall no longer expect the application of the audi alteram partem rule, but will now process the docket to the National Prosecuting Authority for a decision, without her statement."
The DPCI said it was committed to operate within the parameters of the law.
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"In case the Public Protector is of the view that we are abusing our powers and [prejudicing] her, she has the right to report to the retired judge in terms of Section 17L(4)(a) of the Police Act without courting unnecessary publicity."
The Hawks said they would continue to undertake their investigative functions without fear or favour.
"There is no amount of unwarranted statements that will prevent the DPCI from independently executing its functions."
The Hawks' statement is in response to utterances made by Mkhwebane while delivering 12 investigative reports, where she also took the opportunity to address the motion to initiate proceedings for her removal from office as approved by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise.
News24 previously reported that DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone had put in a request to Modise, three days after Parliament adopted formal rules for the removal of a head of a Chapter 9 institution in December 2019.