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Torture claims another reason why Hawks don't cut it - DA

Dianne Kohler Barnard
13 March 2012

Dianne Kohler Barnard says NPA has finalised charges against 14 members of the DPCI

Torture another reason why Hawks should be replaced by the Scorpions

Torture charges will be finalised by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) this week against 14 members of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks). According to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), one of the 18 cases under investigation allegedly caused the death of a suspect.

According to the Mail & Guardian some of the accused have been linked to the murder of Sidwell Mkwambi, a 24-year-old New Crossroads resident allegedly tortured to death and driven to the mortuary in a police van. Police also allegedly tried to cover up Mkwambi's death by claiming he had jumped from a moving vehicle (see here).

The problem with the SAPS- based Hawks is that it has been given a great deal of power. This is unlike the NPA-based Scorpions which, before it was disbanded, had a constitutional obligation to carry out its activities responsibly and "without fear, favour or prejudice."

The likelihood of an elite unit "going rogue" is far higher when it falls under the militarised culture of the SAPS than it is under the legalistic culture of the NPA. These allegations of torture by a SAPS unit are not surprising given the former National Police Commissioner's propensity to encourage police to "shoot to kill" and "aim for the head".

In this case, torture methods allegedly included handcuffing suspects' hands behind their backs before pulling plastic bags over their heads, threatening them with suffocation, pulling inner tubes over their faces, and hitting, kicking and slapping them.

The bottom line is that we need an independent, prosecutions-led unit devoted to busting corruption, like the Scorpions were. 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has outlined ten objections to the SAPS Amendment Bill, which still does not sufficiently shield the Hawks from political interference by senior politicians. We remain convinced that the Hawks, even with the changes introduced with this legislation, do not measure up to the standard set by the Scorpions.

Statement issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police, March 12 2012

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