South Africa 16.9.2013 04:46 pm

Hawks adequately protected – lawyer

The pair had been charged with stock theft.
Photo: Supplied

The pair had been charged with stock theft. Photo: Supplied

The Hawks crime-busting unit is sufficiently insulated from political interference, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.

Michael Donen SC, for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, said all defects with the 2008 legislation which replaced the Scorpions with the Hawks, officially known as the Directorate Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), had been remedied.

“We say that which was broken was fixed,” Donen said.

Last year, Parliament passed the SA Police Service Amendment Act, government’s response to a Constitutional Court ruling that the 2008 act was defective.

The case was brought by businessman Hugh Glenister.

The Constitutional Court found that the Hawks would be open to undue political influence because of its structure and functioning.

After the act was amended last year, Glenister said he would continue to challenge it as he believed the Hawks would remain open to political influence.

The act gives the police minister the power to suspend the head of the Hawks.

The minister can also dismiss the Hawks’ chief after an inquiry headed by a retired judge.

Glenister and the Helen Suzman Foundation contend that the minister would have too much power over the unit and its operations.

Donen disagreed, and said the new law provided the DPCI with the right degree of autonomy and independence.

Earlier, Donen argued that Parliament should have been made a respondent in the matter.

He said that as Parliament had drawn up the amendment act which was being challenged, it was the “main culprit” and should be present to defend itself.

“Parliament… consisting of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces, has a direct and substantial interest in the matter,” Donen said.

Kemp J Kemp, for President Jacob Zuma, also a respondent in the case, did not agree with Donen.

He said the government, and not Parliament, had been ordered to draw up the legislation by the Constitutional Court.

Kemp earlier said there was no threat that the Hawks would be subject to political interference.

“We don’t support the notion that, because the minister has these powers, that the head [of the Hawks] is in imminent threat of improper removal,” he told the court.

Sapa

 

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