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'Police minister should stay out of Hawks' business'

The police minister held a press conference to discuss the Hawks' probe into the finance minister.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko says the Hawks will accept Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's response that he was unable to meet their deadline to respond to questions about the formation of a unit at the South African Revenue Service(Sars).

Yesterday, Gordhan's lawyers said preparations for the Budget speech had made it impossible to respond to the Hawks' questions by yesterday, but they also wanted to know whether a specific offence was being investigated.

Last week, Gordhan and African National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said the questions were sent to Gordhan in a bid to intimidate him.

Nhleko says he accepts that response from Gordhan.

"The response from the minister's office was absolutely correct. I don't see anything wrong with that."

At the same time, the man who went to the Constitutional Court three times to ask that the Hawks be kept fully independent from political influence, has told Eyewitness News the judgment in that case is being ignored by Nhleko.

Hugh Glenister says Nhleko should not have held a press conference yesterday to discuss the Hawks probe into Gordhan.

"The police minister needs to be reminded that we specifically asked and we specifically got a judgment to say stay out of the affairs of an independent institution."

Glenister went to court when the Scorpions were disbanded, saying that the Hawks had been made fully independent from the police minister.

He says that judgment is being ignored.

"People have not listened to the judgment and it was very specific. It requires that the police minister stays out of the affairs of the Hawks. The unit has to be fairly independent."

NHLEKO HAS NO BUSINESS IN HAWKS' AFFAIRS

Accountability Now's Paul Hoffman says Nhleko shouldn't be talking about a Hawk's investigation.

"It's clearly not being respected. The minister has absolutely no business meddling in the affairs of the Hawks. The Hawks are meant to be and effective and independent institution."

Hoffman says the Constitutional Court ruling sent a strong message to government.

"If you want to have a country with a human rights culture, then you have to have effective and independent machinery of state to combat corruption, the Hawks simply don't measure up."

He also says Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza is not behaving in an independent matter. Ntlemeza was found by a judge to have lied under oath before he was appointed to the post.

At the same time, former Sars employees linked to the controversial unit have issued a statement also calling on the police to explain what charges are being investigated.

In their statements, three former Sars employees dismiss the police's investigation into the controversial unit, saying it has always operated within the confines of the law.

Ivan Pillay and Peter Richter say Nhleko's decision to hold a media briefing is a violation of their rights to dignity.

Meanwhile, Johann van Loggenberg maintains he never broke any laws, and that a major newspaper was used by those planting false information about him.

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