By Kotie Geldenhuys
Photos by GroundUp
Corruption is a global problem that knows no boundaries. It is a crime which is invariably committed in secrecy between willing participants, with few, if any witnesses. The result is that the crime is often only noticed when it is in an advanced stage and dealing with it becomes a huge challenge. The recent achievements of the Hawks in investigating corruption confirm that they are ready for the challenges related to investigating this crime - irrespective of how serious it is.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, was established in 2009 as an independent directorate within the South African Police Service in terms of section 17C of the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995 as amended by the South African Police Service Amendment Act 57 of 2008. The mandate of the DPCI is essentially to prevent, combat and investigate national priority offences, focusing on serious organised crime, serious commercial crime and serious corruption.
The appointment of Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya as the head of the DPCI in May 2018, was widely welcomed as it inspired hope that the Hawks would improve their performance in addressing corruption as well as other serious organised and commercial crime. In view of the large number of media statements that have been issued by the DPCI in recent months relating to arrests and convictions in corruption cases we visited Lt-Gen Godfrey Lebeya to get more insight into dealing with this menace.
As the national head of the DPCI, Lt-Gen Lebeya is proud of his team and their achievements, but he quickly added that participative management is important to him as it encourages the involvement of employees at all levels in the analysis of problems, development of strategies and implementation of solutions. Team work is as important, as one must always check with others what their views are on specific aspects. One often tends to think your own view is best, but once others are involved, they will bring other ideas to the table which will actually improve your own ideas. “I like it that when we discuss something, others must also come with ideas, they must not just agree. If we have a meeting where everybody agrees, we can make a lot of mistakes,” said Lt-Gen Lebeya. He said that he must ensure that when he is not around, those who remain will still be able to carry on the fight against serious crime. “What I have in my advantage is my experience, but my colleagues also have specific knowledge and with their knowledge they can enhance the idea I have, so that it becomes our idea. When I leave, I must leave the legacy so that people know what they are supposed to be doing and carry on and even improve on what was happening instead of starting from scratch,” he said.
More manpower for the Hawks
The Hawks currently comprise approximately 2500 members which is a much smaller staff complement than when they were established in 2009. Research conducted by the SAPS confirmed that the Hawks's capacity must increase to 5300 to assist the Hawks in covering the whole country. According to Lt-Gen Lebeya, the lack of capacity makes it difficult to respond to crimes such as a cash-in-transit heists, in a rural area far from where the Hawks have an office and resources. "We have expanded our presence in these areas by setting up some satellite offices so that we can reach certain areas much faster," Lt-Gen Lebeya said. However, he reminded us that satellite offices are not units but only a place from where they can depart to reach certain areas.
Lt-Gen Lebeya informed us that in an attempt to reach their target numbers, the Hawks will:
- Do recruitment from the SAPS detectives. This will be done with the understanding that the detectives will then do recruitment from the visible policing environment. The Hawks however require more experienced detectives who will be able to deal with more complicated cases and investigations;
- recruit external people with scarce skills such as chartered accountants;
- look at the re-enlistment of detectives who have the skills required by the Hawks; and
- target graduates with certain qualifications which can benefit the Hawks such as BCom graduates and those with legal qualifications who are interested in becoming investigation officers.
The Hawks investigate serious corruption and high-profile cases involving private companies and government departments. They investigate more complicated cases involving larger amounts of money or when those involved need to be addressed at a higher level. Lt-Gen Lebeya explained that some corruption cases such as when a police official is accused of taking a bribe can be investigated by the detectives. Some cases might start small, but as detectives proceed with their investigations, they might find a bigger network and request the Hawks’s help with the investigation. In such cases the Hawks might step in, but sometimes they will leave it with the general detectives to investigate.