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Cape Town - The SA Police Services (SAPS) Amendment Act as it currently stands does pass constitutional muster the Western Cape High court heard on Monday.
Renata Williams SC, for the justice department and the government, was arguing in a case in which businessman Hugh Glenister and the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) have sought to have sections of the act declared unconstitutional.
They argue that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has too much power in terms of hiring and firing the head of the Hawks, which would open it up to political interference.
“The minister must have an element of control. He cannot have no control.”
Williams said even if the Hawks were told not to investigate a certain matter, there were other institutions such as the Public Protector, which could “fill that gap” and help root out corruption.
Max Du Plessis, for the HSF told a full Bench of the court the “the possibility for abuse is manifest”.
Both Glenister and the HSF argue that the amendments do not allow the Hawks to meet the requirements of “adequate independence”.
The amendments were drafted in reaction 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, among other things.
Glenister brought his suit following the dissolution in 2008 of the Scorpions, which was an investigative unit which fell under the jurisdiction of the National Prosecuting Authority.
The Scorpions, or the Directorate of Special Operations, was replaced by the Hawks, which falls under the police.