Ten reasons why the Hawks donít measure up to the Scorpions
Dianne Kohler Barnard, Shadow Minister of Police
7 March 2012
An initial assessment of the South African Police Service Amendment Bill by the Democratic Alliance (DA) reinforces the position that the Directorate for Priority Crime (or Hawks) is not sufficiently shielded from political interference by senior politicians. The Hawks simply do not measure up to the standard set by the Scorpions.
This morning, the Police Ministry briefed the portfolio committee on the Bill, drafted as a result of a Constitutional Court ruling (the so-called Glenister Judgment) which found that the Hawks were not adequately independent.
The attempt by the Minister of Police to remedy this situation falls short in at least ten significant ways:
- The appointment process for the Head of the Hawks is still the overall responsibility of a senior politician – the Minister of Police – with the concurrence of other senior politicians in the Cabinet. The DA maintains that the appointment should involve a process of consultation with Parliament.
- Should the Head of the Hawks step on the toes of senior politicians, the Minister of Police may provisionally suspend him or her. This does very little to encourage the Hawks to fight corruption without fear of retribution.
- Undue political interference remains a threat, as senior politicians, in the form of the Ministerial Committee, have the ability to coordinate the activities of the Hawks in terms of section 17I(2)(c) of the Bill.
- The DA holds that financial independence is a prerequisite for independent anti-corruption efforts. The budget of the Hawks remains under the control of the National Police Commissioner and the money allocated to it forms part of the budget vote for the Police. The Hawks, like the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), should have a separate budget vote and require greater financial independence to ensure that they will not face spurious budget cuts or resource constraints when zooming in on corrupt officials and politicians.
- The salary and benefits of the Head of the Hawks and other senior staff are still determined by the Police Minister.
- A senior politician still has the power to determine national priority offences to be investigated by the Hawks. This is “subject” to policy guidelines issued by the Minister of Police.
- The Hawks will remain in the Department of Police and are directly answerable to a Minister. No effort is being made to situate the Directorate in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) or similar organs of state which enjoy constitutionally enshrined independence.
- The Bill clearly does not give the Hawks the power to investigate and combat the full spectrum of corrupt activities. The functions of the Hawks include the prevention, combatting and investigation of only “selected offences” as described in Chapter 2 and s34 of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act (No. 12 of 2004).
- Members of the Hawks, in terms of section 17E(9)(a) of the Bill, are bound only to perform their functions impartially and in good faith. Independence is still clearly not a basic necessary precondition for the execution of their duties.
- Members of the Hawks remain police officers with all the powers, duties and functions of police members. While it is necessary for the Hawks to have these powers and functions, it is unacceptable that their members operate within the rank-and-file of the SAPS where independence is undermined by a culture of taking orders from superiors without question.
The likelihood of political interference was always the DA’s principal objection to the disbandment of the Directorate for Special Operations or Scorpions and its replacement with the Hawks.
South Africans deserve an independent, effective and highly specialised, prosecution-driven anti-corruption unit like the Scorpions, not a watered down version answerable to a Minister, like the Hawks.
Corruption continues to undermine the goals of increasing growth, creating jobs and fighting poverty. It is in the best interest of the country and the public to bring back the Scorpions instead of simply fiddling with the Hawks.