Author:  Stuart Graham

The Catholic Church backed the countrywide anti-corruption march on September 30, saying it questions the government’s seriousness in curbing graft. The government is “dragging its feet” in fighting corruption and uses political rhetoric that is not accompanied by decisive action, said Bishop Abel Gabuza, chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission (J&P) of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

“We believe the government is not doing enough to demonstrate it is serious in its efforts to prevent and combat corruption, he said.

J&P is particularly concerned about the lack of decisive action in implementing the decision of the Constitutional Court calling for effective measures to enhance the independence of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, also known as the Hawks.

In 2012 the court found that the Hawks were not adequately independent from political interference and ordered rectifying legislation.

“The government has dragged its feet when it comes to the restructuring of the Hawks as directed by the Constitutional Court, “J&P noted in a statement by Bishop Gabuza.

“ We have always maintained that our country will succeed in combating corruption only when anti-corruption institutions are adequately protected from executive and political interference; when competent people are appointed to head these institutions; and when the high –level politicians and those politically connected are held to account for corruption, “ the statement said.

In May, police minister Nkosinathi Nhleko appointed a task team to oversee the process of strengthening the independence of the Hawks. The task team has been given April 2016 as a target for completion of institutional reform of the directorate.

The minister promised that the reform will include establishment budget programme to ensure that there are no malicious budget cuts when the institution is investigation powerful political officials.

J&P believes that the mandate of the task team should also include advising the police minister on the institutional location of the Hawks that is the best suited for its independence and effectiveness as an anti-corruption institution.

Question have also been raised about its location in the South African Police Service, which allows the National Commissioner considerable influence over members.

“We need to revive the national conversation around the best institutional location of the Hawks,” Bishop Gabuza said.

“We also call for greater involvement of parliament in the appointment of the head of Hawks. Concentration of the appointment powers in the police minister, without some form of parliamentary oversight, does not sit well with the independence of the Hawks.”

J&P also issued a prayer against corruption in South Africa, thanking God for blessing our country with rich human and natural resources to be used for the common good of all South Africans.