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Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court has reserved judgment in a case in which businessman Hugh Glenister and the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) are challenging the SAPS Amendment Act.
The SA Police Service Amendment Act was the government's response to a Constitutional Court judgment that found invalid sections of the legislation which established the Hawks crime-busting unit.
Glenister and the HSF argued that the amendments were not sufficient to insulate the Hawks from political interference.
They argued that the powers given to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa to hire and fire the Hawks head opened up the unit to “undue influence”.
“It's not all right for the minister to have control,” Paul Hoffman told the court on Monday.
Referring to the amendment act, which is meant to addresses the Constitutional Court's concerns regarding the security of tenure for the Hawks head, Hoffman said: “The deck chairs have been moved around... but the Titanic is still not an independent entity.”
While the Constitutional Court found that it was not problematic for the Hawks to fall under the SAPS, Hoffman said the court did not mean for the unit to be under “executive control”.
Earlier in the day, Renata Williams SC, for the government, said Mthethwa needed to have an element of control over the Hawks.
Williams said that 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.
The amendments to the act were drafted following 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.