The last time Hugh Glenister lost his cool – and threw a cup full of coffee against the wall in his Midrand office – it was January 2008 and he had heard the Scorpions had been disbanded. This week, the multi-millionaire businessman lost his cool in Parliament.
He was appearing before a portfolio committee on the police after the Constitutional Court ruled in his favour in March last year that sections of the acts that disbanded the Scorpions and created the the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (aka the Hawks) were unconstitutional.
The court said it was particularly concerned by the extent to which a ministerial committee had “hands-on” control and oversight over the unit, as well as the cases and crimes that would be referred to the unit.
Some features of the SAPS Amendment Bill that seeks to remedy this include:
l Policy guidelines on cases and crimes for the Hawks to investigate are now the sole responsibility of the minister of police with the “concurrence of Parliament”.
l The ministerial committee’s direct oversight of the unit has been removed.
l The Minister of Police still appoints the head of the Hawks. However, he now does so for a non-renewable term of seven years and there is a new deadline for reporting the appointment to Parliament.
l A new provision also allows the minister to suspend the head of the directorate if “he or she is no longer a fit and proper person to hold the office”.
Parliament has until September to debate the bill and adopt the legislation.
But with time running out before the court-imposed deadline for the new bill, an enraged Glenister described it as “weak”.
“I was hoping Parliament would involve the greater society in the debate on how to create an independent corruption buster, but they just left it until now when suddenly they’re running out of time.
“We’re nowhere near what the court decided. We’ve got an opportunity now, because of what happened with the court challenge, to create something beautiful, the best corruption fighting unit in the world.
“If they (Parliament) continue like this, we will be back to the Constitutional Court in September. SA is going to lose if we end up going back to the court,” he warned.
Asked if he thought he had done the right thing in joining the Scorpions battle, he said he would know only in 20 years’ time.
“If society comes back together and realises that they have to hold their government in check, hold their government accountable and that the power rests with them, then, yes, I will have been successful,” he said.
“If all it does is tear us further apart as a nation then it’s a disaster and I will have done the wrong thing.”
He once attempted to withdraw from the case, but his lawyers convinced him to continue.
“I phoned the lawyers when we reached R3.5 million in legal fees because they initially quoted me R1m,” he remembered.
“I told them I wanted out of the case. The media was driving me mad.
“Now I have to finish the job but I must admit there are times when I want to pack my suitcase.” - Weekend Argus