A confluence of events has occurred of late putting the spotlight on one institution and one principle. The principle is the more important of two, but the institution, the Hawks, is going to be front and centre for a while. Suddenly the re-emergence of the Arms Deal (which is now such a defining issue in our politics that it gets capital letters), and the fact that the police have thrown in the hot potato of the Julius Malema investigation (a saga itself likely to have capitals before long) mean that the Hawks are about to occupy SA's centre stage. By STEPHEN GROOTES.
Over the weekend it emerged that Hawks head, Anwar Dramat, had written to the head of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) informing him that he was now going to look at a small aspect of the Arms Deal. In essence, he is sending two investigators to Sweden and the UK, after more claims emerged there of bribes allegedly (this is the arms industry, but we’ll still keep the “allegedly” just the same) paid by Saab and BAE Systems to people here to facilitate parts of the deal. The letter is relatively brief, and makes it pretty clear that this will be a tightly focused investigation.
Let’s be clear here. The Arms Deal has been a disaster for our democracy in general and the ANC in particular. Arguably the person that has benefitted most, oddly, has been President Jacob Zuma. This was the issue that hung around his neck for years, and still does. This was the focus of claims that he was corrupt. We all remember the Schabir Shaik Trial, and how it played out, both on television and in the court of public opinion. It was what led to Zuma being “relieved of his duties” as deputy president, Cosatu’s decision to back him, and the wave that became the tsunami that crested at Polokwane. Through all of this, Zuma used them to his advantage, turning the claims into a validation that he was victimised.
But there’s no way Zuma has any interest in this investigation into the Arms Deal getting any momentum. Bear in mind in the past, Dramat has said to Scopa that there were just so many documents, his investigators simply couldn’t go through them all. Yip, there was so much evidence (4.7 million pages of it) they didn’t know where to start. And thus the whole probe went the way Scorpions did. Even though they seemed to have the knowledge, the know-how and the will to actually sit down and read through the papers.
We all know how they were punished for that. When the Hawks were created, it seemed the whole point of their existence was to make sure the deal would never be investigated. A majority of judges (but not outgoing Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo) on the Constitutional Court saw through that. This is where we get to the principle that we are seeing demonstrated so aptly.
In their ruling on the case brought by Hugh Glenister, the judges ruled the main problem with the way the Hawks were set up, is that their head, Dramat, was not sufficiently independent. The Scorpions, you may remember, came under the National Prosecuting Authority, so their head cannot be fired very easily. The Hawks come under the SAPS. The boss there is the national police commissioner, who can be fired very easily and directly by the President (constitutionally speaking - the politics is another matter). The Constitutional Court gave government a certain period within which to fix it.
The principle here is that, as we have seen over the last while with the Ngcobo issue, the Constitution is very big on the idea that people who head institutions that are supposed to be independent, must not be in positions in which they would want to seek the approval of the President. It was the point made again and again in the Constitutional Court’s hearing on the Ngcobo issue. Now Dramat is in exactly the same position. He may want to, or not, seek the approval of the President. Because as things stand, at the moment, the President can ring up the head of the police and tell him to sack Dramat or he himself will lose his job.
And thus we have a wonderful situation in which the conspiracy theorists may even claim, a little breathlessly, that Dramat is simply sending his two investigators to Europe as a little insurance policy for General Bheki Cele, his “skeleton in the closet” message for Zuma to consider while making a decision on Cele's future...
Now, on to the second part of Dramat’s current in-tray: Malema. The latest revelations include claims that he paid cash for his Sandton home, while he himself has, of course, replayed his usual claim that he’s just a victim of a media lynching. But if the Sunday Times’ claim is true (and it looks like it is), that the Hawks really are looking into his bank accounts with a view to deciding whether they should officially probe his finances, well suddenly Dramat becomes very important. Presumably he would make the final decision on whether there would be an official full-scale investigation. And, if he does decide to proceed, he would be the one to decide how that investigation would be conducted. Would there dramatic public raids, perhaps a blow-by-blow account every day, all with an odd leak occurring here and there. Perish the thought, but even Malema might find it difficult to explain a bank account in his name containing millions of rand, if it were to arrive mysteriously in the public domain. The very way Dramat would conduct his investigation could direct the future of country's political balance one way or another.
One of the aspects of our country’s politics that is likely to save us from complete damnation is the fact that at different times different people become very important, very powerful. Two weeks ago, it would have been difficult to predict that suddenly Dramat would be in a position to manoeuvre himself into a place of power. Of course, the problem is, like NPA head Menzi Simelane, this makes him very vulnerable to those in the ANC seeking influence. Basically, like Simelane, he could be in a position to make or break ANC leaders. Mangaung is approaching, and so people like him will come under more pressure and more temptation. Here we go again. DM
Grootes is an EWN reporter.
Photo: A Swedish air force Saab Gripen multi task fighter plane performs over the Waterkloof airforce base in South Africa in this November 1, 1998 file photo. REUTERS/Peter Andrews