Anti-corruption law is watered down, say critics

The new South African Police Service (SAPS) Amendment Bill, dealing with the separation of powers between the state itself and the investigation unit known as the Hawks, has come under extreme criticism during parliamentary hearings.

The new bill. intended to replace the present SAPS Amendment Act that established the Hawks, otherwise known as the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, has come before the portfolio committee on police – with public parliamentary hearings currently completed.

Following the wipe out of the Scorpions corruption investigation team, for reasons better known to the ANC who insisted on its disbandment some years ago, the subject of whether the new legislation is sufficiently free of political influence was the core of many of the submissions made, this have being the keynote point of debate in Parliament when the previous Act was declared void.

The raison d’être for the substituted Bill is to overcome that same ruling by the Constitutional Court, which found that the Hawks were insufficiently protected from political influence or interference to meet the requirements of the independent agency’s own objectives.

The stated aim of the body is to be a free and unencumbered from political influence for investigating and countering corruption, the preamble says.

The Constitutional Court further ruled that the original legislation that created the Hawks did not comply with SA’s international obligations which accounts for the interest in this matter by overseas investor monitoring bodies. Parliament was given 18 months by the Constitutional Court to amend the Act and thus the matter has a timing to the substitution Bill for legislation to be enacted. September 2012 is in fact the date.

The issue of South Africa dropping from 54 in 2010 to 64 in 2011 out of 182 countries was mentioned in a number of submissions.

With stringent international and national legislation now in place in other countries, particularly those with investment wallets badly needed in South Africa, the debate which follows and which will involve business viewpoints, political party platforms and government implementation, particularly in the public service, which will be lively if not acrimonious at times.

The parliamentary police committee is now to consider for debate a summation of the public hearings, many of them highly critical of the proposals.


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