The Gordhan- Hawks debacle and how much it affects the development of South African still stands as an issue of major concern to South Africans as groups such as the Helen Suzman Foundation calls for the president to put a halt to the “mess.”
The Helen Suzman Foundation say president Zuma is wrong when he claims he can do nothing to end the rift between finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, and the Hawks.
The foundation’s statement followed Zuma’s denial of the claims of a conspiracy against Gordhan and his insistence that the minister submits to the Hawks for questioning as ordered.
Zuma emphasized that the finance minister has not been found guilty of any wrong doing but that he (Zuma) wishes to also emphasize that he does not have powers to stop any investigations into any individual/s.
“Our constitutional democracy‚ the strength of our state institutions and the effectiveness of our courts in upholding and protecting rights is our guarantee of justice and fairness.” Zuma said.
Reacting to this claim, the Helen Suzman Foundation said though Zuma cannot interfere with specific investigations or prosecutions, he has plenty of power to oversee the Hawks.
“The constitution requires that the National Prosecuting Authority (the NPA) exercise its functions ‘without fear, favour or prejudice’. The Hawks are similarly operationally independent. Section 17B(b)(ii) of the South African Police Service Act enshrines the ‘necessary independence’ of the Hawks. The Constitutional Court has held, in Glenister I and II (both cases in which the Helen Suzman Foundation participated) that the constitution itself requires this.”
The foundation pointed out that Zuma is aware that the Hawks’ investigation is an extravagant own-goal, that he also noted the concerns’ of civil society and the ‘negative effect of these matters on our economy’ and the ‘personal pressure on the individuals affected’. All of this, they said, is ‘disturbing’.
Having known all these, the foundation says Zuma would be lying if he claims not to be constitutionally able to help Gordhan out of the mess for the sake of the country.
Helen Suzman Foundation said Zuma does have the power to bring this crisis to a stop because the allegations against minister Gordhan rest on insufficient facts and a misunderstanding of the law. “This is incompetence,” it stated.
“First, under section 17DA of the Police Service Act, a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly can remove the head of the Hawks, Lieutenant-General Berning Ntlemeza, on the grounds of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
“Once the National Assembly begins these proceedings, the minister of police, Mr Nathi Nhleko, may provisionally suspend the head of the Hawks immediately.
“The breathtaking weakness of the Hawks’ case against the Minister has been overwhelmingly established by the press, civil society and legal experts. The legal grounds to remove Mr Ntlemeza are there.”
The foundation said Zuma can exert his influence on the ANC caucus in Parliament to instruct Minister Nhleko to suspend Mr Ntlemeza once the National Assembly starts proceedings. If he refuses to, the president can’t fire him.
Even if President Zuma cannot do this (if he cannot corral the necessary super-majority in the National Assembly, for example), he has another route available to him, it said.
“As the Menzi Simelane case showed, the courts can set aside a decision to appoint a public servant if that decision was irrational, and the decision to appoint might be irrational if the individual appointed is clearly dishonest. No less than two judges have noted Mr Ntlemeza’s dishonesty. Thus, the president can approach a court to have the decision to appoint Mr Ntlemeza set aside. He doesn’t even have to do this on his own, as such a case is already before both the High Court and the Constitutional Court,” the foundation said.
Helen Suzman Foundation also stressed that the persecution of minister Gordhan poses a grave danger to South Africa’s economy and the country’s institutions. “Zuma should do something. Fortunately, he can,” the foundation added.