Hawks to take over arms deal files


Parliament is set to take one more stab at the ongoing allegations of corruption in the government’s multibillion-rand arms deal by bringing in the police’s new priority crime unit, the Hawks.

Nearly 10 years since the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) started probing the allegations, investigations are still dragging on and MPs heard on Friday that “all files” had been handed over to the police’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, the Cape Argus reports.

Themba Godi, chairman of the standing committee on public accounts (SCOPA), says the committee is likely to call the Hawks before July,the paper said. “We want to start wrapping up our report,” he said, of the committee’s 2008 decision to make government departments account for their work to put the graft allegations to rest.”

In an answer to a question from the DA last year, President Jacob Zuma said SCOPA’s report would help inform him on whether to set up a judicial inquiry into the deal. Unlike his predecessors in the Presidency, Zuma did not reject out of hand a clamour of appeals from civil society for a commission by luminaries such as Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and FW de Klerk.

SCOPA’s decision to call the Hawks follows Friday’s disclosure by National Director of Public Prosecutions Menzi Simelane that the NPA is no longer responsible for the investigations, after handing the matter to Hawks commissioner Anwar Dramat. SCOPA wanted to grill Simelane on the NPA’s lack of progress with further investigations that were ordered by former president Thabo Mbeki’s 2001 enquiry – the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), the Cape Argus added.

DA member of Scopa Mark Steele said the Hawks should be called urgently. “Clearly the NPA has no appetite for this investigation, and the issue now becomes whether the Hawks have the capacity and the will to pursue the investigation with the necessary energy and commitment”, Steele said. “This transfer of responsibility is part of a pattern of delaying tactics by the ANC.
“Ultimately, we continue to believe that only an independent judicial inquiry will fully expose the extent of the arms deal corruption.” Asked whether the hand-over to the Hawks meant that none of the cases have progressed to a stage where prosecution was imminent, Simelane told Independent Newspapers: “It is still at investigations stage.” SCOPA called the NPA and a range of other departments to public hearings last year to account for the steps they have taken to comply with recommendations of the JIT report. An internal SCOPA report on the hearings fingered the NPA as the only entity “that did not respond satisfactorily to the committee’s request for information”.