Crime is no doubt a big issue in South Africa. The South African Police Service is often overwhelmed by situations requiring their attention. Following the Apartheid regime and its characteristic brutality towards the natives, civil rights unions were formed to fight for freedom, and along the way, some of these groups took up arms. When South Africa became a state, crime was already rife in the Rainbow nation. This necessitated the creation or emergence of subunits within the nation’s security force. Hawks is one of such security units.
When was the Hawks Established?
The Hawks, which is the popular name for South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), was established in 2008. The need arose from the alleged abuse of the constitutional rights of certain individuals, which was seen as undermining the country’s nascent democracy. A national debate started, and the Zuma administration eventually saw the need for a more democratized security unit that would not be used for political witch-hunting.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (The Hawks) was set up as an independent entity within the South African Police Service under the leadership of Jacob Zuma with its headquarters at Pretoria, South Africa. The directorate was legally backed by Section 17C of the South African Police Service Act of 1995, which was amended by the South African Police Service Amendment Act of 2008, commonly referred to as Act 57 of 2008. The directorate has been headed by the following since its inception:
- Anwa Dramat (2009 – 2014)
- Berning Ntlemeza (Ag. 2014 – 2015)
- Berning Ntlemeza (2015 – 2017)
- Yolisa Matakata (Ag. 2017 – 2018)
- Godfrey Lebeya (2018 – present)
The Hawks Security Unit Replaced the Scorpions
Before the establishment and commissioning of the Hawks, there was a counter-crime unit commissioned to perform similar duties. This unit was known as the Scorpions. The Directorate of Special Operations, known as Scorpions, was an independent agency within The National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa. The unit was commissioned by the then-president Thabo Mbeki on 1 September 1999 at Gugulethu, Cape Town. It was initially known as the Directorate of Special Investigation (DSI) but was later renamed the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO).
The Scorpions unit was a multidisciplinary unit that was saddled with the investigation and prosecution of organized corruption and crime. The unit had about 536 staff, comprising South Africa’s best hands in the police, prosecutors, forensic, intelligence, and financial industry. One of the organized crimes investigated by the group was the famous case involving the infamous Martin Marais.
Why Was The Scorpions Unit Dismantled?
The Scorpions came under scrutiny as the political situation in the country became intense, and people began to suspect that the unit could become a tool for harassing politicians. The fear within political office holders was confirmed as one of the unit’s first major operations led to a raid of the houses of top politicians, including the house of the then-Vice President, Jacob Zuma, former Transport Minister, Mac Maharaj, and Durban businessman, Schabir Shaik.
Following the raids and counter raids of politicians’ homes within the African National Congress (ANC), there was a call to either reform the Scorpions or scrap the system completely. At the 52nd National Conference of the African National Congress in 2007, held in Polokwane, Limpopo, the decision to replace Scorpions with the Hawks was made. The ANC argued that there was a need for government oversight in any agency entrusted with the responsibility to tackle organized crimes and corruption to avoid abuse of such institutions for political gains, as was the case with the power tussle between Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. The Scorpion team was dismantled by Jacob Zuma in late January 2009.
What do the Hawks Investigate?
The directorate is responsible for the fighting, prevention, and investigation of national priority crimes, including commercial crimes and corruption cases under the amended Section 17B and 17D of the South African Police Service Act of 1995. These crimes include organized crimes, corruption, economic crimes, and any other serious crime brought to its attention by the President or the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Hawks is structured to serve as some form of civilian force backed by the law to carry out independent investigations. This squad within the police service cracks down on traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs and those who produce them without a license. They also tackle armed robbery gangs and other similar violent gangs that disturb the peace of society. Internet crimes such as phishing, online bullying, and other related cybercrime also fall under their radar.
Under financial crimes, they look into unlawful extortions, financial frauds carried out online and offline, online scams where people are defrauded by fraudsters posing as lovers and princes or potential investors seeking business partners. High-profile cases of corruption are equally dealt with by the unit. Such cases include diversion and misappropriation of public funds by public office holders, abuse of power, nepotism, and other related injustices as no one is above the law.
The Procedure for Investigation By Hawks
There is a laid out procedure for investigation by different units under the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation. First, formal complaints have to be made to the directorate in writing or by completing a complaints form available at their office and online. Complaints can be submitted in person, by e-mail, post, or fax to the office of the DCPI judge.
Complaints are then processed, and if need be, affidavits may be requested to validate allegations made in the complaints. After complaints have been reviewed and validated, they are either investigated by the office of the judge or forwarded to the relevant role players for further actions. Such role players include the Civilian Secretariat for Police, the IPID, the National Commissioner, and the National Head of the Directorate.
How do I Contact the Hawks in South Africa?
There are several ways to contact the Hawks South Africa Police. The directorate can be reached through:
- Physical Address: DPCI: Anti-Corruption Desk, A5 Promat Building, 1 Cresswell Road, Silverton, Pretoria 0186
- E-mail: CorruptionReports@saps.gov.za
- Telephone: Head Office: +27 (0) 12 846 4590, Fax: 086 546 1400
Provincial Contact Details
- Name: Colonel F Mokoena
- Phone Number: 0829285376
- E-mail: MokoenaAF@saps.gov.za
- Name: Colonel AV Ntsonge
- Phone Number: 0824168775
- E-mail: NtsongeAV@saps.gov.za
- Name: Colonel NI Mokoena
- Phone Number: 0824530818
- E-mail: MokoenaNI@saps.gov.za
- Name: Colonel L Ndzimande
- Phone Number: 0714812959
- E-mail: NdzimandeL@saps.gov.za
- Name: Brigadier AB Maqashalala
- Phone Number: 0824829596
- E-mail: MaqashalalaAB@saps.gov.za
- Name: Brigadier S Lewele
- Phone Number: 0823229737
- E-mail: LeweleS@saps.gov.za
- Name: Lt Colonel DA Myburgh
- Phone Number: 0824924036
- E-mail: Myburgh2@saps.gov.za
- Name: Brigadier NN Mabotja
- Phone Number: 0713517198
- E-mail: MabotjaN@saps.gov.za
- Name: Colonel AR Enus
- Phone Number: 0824692577
- E-mail: EnusAbdul@saps.gov.za
High Profile Arrests Made by The Hawks South Africa Police
The Hawks have been involved in several high-profile investigations since it was formed. Some of these cases and arrests show their commitment towards a safe and corruption-free South Africa.
Major General Johan Booysen
Major General Johan Booysen, who was the former head of The Hawks in the KwaZulu Natal Province, was arrested by The Hawks in 2012 for being involved in the alleged operations of a “death squad” believed to be part of the Hawks organized crime unit at Cato Manor. This arrest was instigated by the then-acting National Director of Public Prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba. Jiba was further indicted following the arrest and was tried for her failed attempts to prosecute Booysen. In 2015, Booysen sued the state for wrongful arrest.
Two Senior Hawks Officials Arrested in Silverton
Two senior Hawks officials in the suburb of Silverton were arrested in November 2020. The two officials, Brigadier Peggy Morongo and Colonel Malesela Moylan, were accused of using fraudulent means to obtain their promotional appointments, which amounted to corruption charges. The duo was arrested alongside a former South African Police Service, Colonel Paulina Mokgadi. The trio was made to appear at the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes court.
The Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan Case
The investigation of a sitting finance minister was a high-profile case for the Hawks. The then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, came under Hawks’ investigation in the middle of 2016 after his appointment. Gordhan was appointed to replace Nhlanhla Nene, who was fired from the position of Finance Minister by President Jacob Zuma. The dismissal of Nene was frowned at by the public, which led to Gordhan’s appointment. Gordhan was investigated for his possible involvement in running an unlawful investigative unit during his time as the head of the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Still, the investigation was criticized by his supporters.
Foiling A R100 Million Online Scam
Other notable arrests and investigations by the Hawks include the recent foiling of an online scam in collaboration with the FBI and other intelligence units. The joint arrests were made recently following the investigation of a R100 million online scam. Although the identities of the suspects were not disclosed, a total of eight foreign nationals linked to the scam were arrested. The case is of international interest as the criminal group is believed to have links to a larger group in Nigeria, West Africa. The operation was carried out in Cape Town. Most of the victims of this scam are widows and divorcees trying to find love again.
Arrest Of Five Police Officers Connected To Stock Theft
In another situation, the Hawks proved that no one is above the law, including police officers. In July 2021, the unit arrested five police officers in Free State for their alleged involvement in stock theft. The officers detained were part of the stock theft unit in Ladybrand, Free State. Their arrest came after a comprehensive investigation following a tip-off by farmers within the area who claimed that they were losing about R1 million every month to stock theft.
The farmers explained that they had stopped reporting cases of stock theft to the unit in charge because they knew that the thieves had close ties with the police. After looking into these claims, these five officers were arrested. Two farmers were also detained in Bloemfontein in connection to the case. More arrests would be made as the investigations continued.
Public Opinion About The Hawks South Africa Police
Like any other public unit, the Hawks have received positive and negative reviews since its creation in 2008. Upon the units’ emergence, many saw it as a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. They did not see the need to replace the Scorpions with another security outfit. For this group within the nation, what was required was a reformation of the Scorpions, not its disbandment. MP Koos van der Merwe of the Inkatha Freedom Party was of the view that the Hawks were coming into existence solely to protect politicians within the ANC from being investigated and prosecuted for possible corruption charges. He argued that The Scorpions did a better job than would be done by the Hawks.
The opinion above seems to have come to play in the Booysen/Jiba charges and the investigation of Pravin Gordhan. Booysen later sued the state for wrongful arrest by the Hawks and claimed that he was arrested and charged for impeding his investigation of certain cases, which suggests that the unit was being used to witch-hunt potential enemies of its creators. A similar scenario arose during the Gordhan case. The supporters of the former SARS boss were of the view that he was being investigated so that his job could be put on the line as people were still outraged by the dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister.
In other situations, members of the Hawks have been equally arrested and charged with different degrees of crime ranging from corruption to abuse of power. A former Hawks officer was imprisoned recently for siphoning R4,000 in “trap money.” The said officer was sentenced to an effective four years in the Mthatha Specialised Commercial Crimes Court for pocketing money set aside for police operations.
While the Hawks, like all police units, have continued to receive negative reviews, some have appreciated their fearlessness in handling high-profile cases and not cutting corners while discharging their duties. They have also been praised for tackling organized crimes such as drug trafficking gangs and online scamming, as was the recent case in which they joined forces with the United States Secret Service to foil an online scam worth over R100 million. Their involvement in the investigation and near arrest of their founder Jacob Zuma won them accolades from the anti-Zuma camp, who found their willingness to arrest their creator as a testimony of their commitment to serve the country without fear or favor.