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Cape Town -The government is dedicated to rooting out corruption, its senior counsel told the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
Renata Williams SC, for the justice department and the government, was arguing in a challenge of the SA Police Service Amendment Act by businessman Hugh Glenister and the Helen Suzman Foundation.
The amendment act, which was passed in Parliament last year, sets out the way in which the Scorpions' successor, the Hawks, should operate and function.
It was drafted last year in response to a previous Constitutional Court victory by Glenister, in which the executive was ordered to change the legislation to provide the Hawks with independence from political interference.
Glenister brought his case following the dissolution in 2008 of the Scorpions, which was an investigative unit under the jurisdiction of the National Prosecuting Authority.
Following the amendments in 2012, he said he was not convinced the Hawks was sufficiently insulated from undue influence.
On Tuesday, Williams said the government was well aware that corruption existed and was “endemic”.
“We have the government's commitment in dealing with corruption. It's been there for two decades,” she said.
At this point, Judge Siraj Desai lifted his head and questioned the statement that corruption had been present in only the past two decades.
“I don't think the previous government was not guilty of corruption,” Desai said, before allowing Williams to continue.
Williams said the Constitutional Court found it permissible for the Hawks to fall under the police, and that its location did not pose a threat to its independence.
Earlier in the day, Michael Donen SC, for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, suggested there had been no convincing argument that the Hawks unit would not be autonomous.
“The directorate (Hawks) constitutes a cocooned, autonomous group,” Donen submitted.
Donen contended that the amendment act met all the requirements of establishing an independent crime-fighting unit focusing on, among others, corruption.
Because the appointment of the Hawks' head was led by Mthethwa, this did not mean it would be unduly politically influenced.
“The appointment by the minister of the head cannot be described as a political appointee,” Donen said.
His arguments were in line with those of President Jacob Zuma's counsel, Kemp J Kemp SC, who earlier said the police minister's discretion took effect only when deciding who he wanted to appoint as Hawks chief from those who met the objective criteria as set out by the act.
The case was postponed to October 14 for further arguments.