Deputy Speaker and hon Minister, the ACDP, together with other political parties, vigorously opposed the disbanding of the Scorpions, believing that it was a highly successful anticorruption unit, and that it was being disbanded because it had successfully prosecuted high- profile members of the majority party. It was their success that ultimately led to their demise.
We also opposed the South African Police Service Amendment Bill that replaced the Scorpions with the Hawks. Subsequently we learnt that the Constitutional Court, in a 5 to 4 split decision, found that the Hawks were not sufficiently independent, and were vulnerable to political interference, and we as Parliament were required to amend the Act.
Let us be reminded of what the court said about the need and rationale for combating corruption. The court said:
When corruption and organised crime flourish, sustainable development and economic growth are stunted. And in turn, the stability and security of society is put at risk.
We agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. Systemic poverty will not be eradicated without eradicating systemic corruption. Hence the need for an independent unit.
Much debate surrounded the location of this unit. The ACDP would have preferred that the unit be located outside the SAPS. However, as pointed out by the Constitutional Court, the Constitution does not require the creation of a specialised crime unit outside the SAPS, or for that matter, within the National Prosecuting Authority, NPA, as desirable as this may be. The head of the Hawks, Lieutenant General Dramat, significantly indicated that the unit should remain within the SAPS.
The committee made substantial and far-reaching amendments to the South African Police Service Act. It is noteworthy, for example, that the executive can no longer dismiss the head of the unit. This can only be done by a majority vote in Parliament, and that only after an enquiry has determined that his dismissal is warranted. The unit's head also has a veto right over the unit's budget, prepared in consultation, while the Hawks and not the National Police Commissioner will present the unit's budget and annual report to Parliament.
The crucial question is whether these amendments form a sufficiently protective layer of independence for the Hawks as an effective anticorruption entity. We in the ACDP say that this goes a long way toward that.
Let us be reminded that the court's decision was a majority judgment of 5 judges, and that 4 judges held a different view. They held that the Hawks were sufficiently protected under the pre-amended Act. The minority judgment, led by the then Chief Justice Ngcobo, held that:
The inclusion of each branch of government ... serves as an important safeguard against encroachment by any single branch into the independent operation of the DPCI.
The minority judgment said that these were adequate checks and balances to ensure the independence of the DPCI. The question is, when it goes back to the courts, will they find that the present view is constitutional, or not?
We in the ACDP believe that these substantial amendments go a long way, and that they may well pass constitutional muster, given the view that there were four minority judges that found that the previous version was constitutional. Notwithstanding the fact that we would have preferred to see the unit located elsewhere, the ACDP will support this Bill. I thank you. [Applause.]