Wednesday, February 13, 2008

South African Investigative Unit, the Scorpions, to Be Dissolved

Nqakula: Scorpions to be dissolved

Cape Town, South Africa
12 February 2008 04:02

South Africa's elite, FBI-style Scorpions anti-crime unit will be dissolved, Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula said on Tuesday.

"The Scorpions ... will be dissolved and the organised crime unit of the police will be phased out and a new, amalgamated unit will be created," Nqakula told Parliament in Cape Town during a debate on President Thabo Mbeki's State of the Nation address.

The Scorpions are not part of the police but report to the National Prosecuting Authority, which answers to the Justice and Constitutional Development Department.

The "best experience" of the two bodies will be merged. This, Nqakula said, is part of a "holistic approach" to the revamp of the criminal justice system, which will have organised crime as one of its main priorities.

"We need proper measures, better human and material resources to achieve our goals in the fight against all crime," Nqakula said.

He said the ANC is not "reckless" in piloting a move to "change for the better" the strategies and tactics necessary to fight crime. "We are a dynamic organisation that has always seized the moment to rise to higher levels and that is why we continue to occupy the high moral ground," he said to howls of protest and jeers from some MPs.

"A revamped criminal justice system must be able to deal with organised crime, investigation and arrest, imprisonment and sentencing, release and rehabilitation ... There must be no mercy for organised criminal gangs."

During her speech, Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla said that a recent review of the criminal justice system had found "gaps" in the crime-fighting chain.

"It found as one of the big weaknesses a lack of capacity and poor coordination, and I must say that was a similar finding by Khampepe [the commission that investigated whether the Scorpions should stay independent of the police]. We have to address this particular challenge of coordination," she said.

At this point, Speaker Baleka Mbete cut her off, saying that she had already allowed her to go two minutes over her allotted time since she was discussing a weighty matter. Mabandla uttered a startled "What?" and left the podium.


In reaction, Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said it was very arrogant for Nqakula to undermine Parliament's authority by announcing the Scorpions' dissolution.

She said the Scorpions had been established by an act of Parliament. "And the procedures must start here in Parliament. [It is] not for the executive to announce the dissolution of the Scorpions," she said.

Also, if Mbeki had acted earlier concerning police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, instead of uttering the phrase "I trust you," the country would have been in a much stronger position in the fight against crime, De Lille said.

Efforts to "blackmail" MPs into accepting the disbanding of the Scorpions will be vigorously resisted, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said. "Any attempt to blackmail this house to bend backwards and forwards to accommodate the campaigners for the disbanding [of the Scorpions] will be resisted," he said.

The combination of prosecution and investigation in the unit has delivered results, he said. "Disbanding or dissolving the Scorpions [would be] sheer foolishness given the other major challenges facing the nation. The people who drove this campaign were wanted by the law themselves ..."

Holomisa proposed an overarching ministry for the entire criminal justice system. This would help coordinate crime-fighting resources and the Scorpions would be accountable to it.


On Sunday, Mbeki said that the "specialist nature" of the Scorpions might well be retained wherever the unit is finally located.

The government remained firmly committed to ensuring South Africa's capacity to fight organised crime was enhanced, not reduced, he said in an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

"The fact of the matter, whatever happens with the Scorpions, we will try to ensure that our capacity to fight organised crime, even maintaining, the specialist nature of the ... Scorpions, we don't lose that either. That's the outcome, that's what you must get in the end," Mbeki said.

The Scorpions were set up to concentrate on organised crime. However, the South African Police Service also has a division specialising in organised crime, as do the Financial Intelligence Service, the National Intelligence Agency, the South African Secret Service and the customs service.

"All of these deal with organised crime. So the challenge for the government is to say: What do we do around this whole area of organised crime?" said Mbeki, adding that it is a complex matter and not just about one unit. "What about all the other elements within the government system that deal with that?"

Battle lines

The Sunday Times reported that battle lines were being drawn over the future of the Scorpions. The African National Congress's parliamentary caucus was setting up a heavyweight committee to drive the dismantling of the unit, while Mbeki was mounting a defiant fightback campaign to preserve it, the paper said.

The committee -- the first of its kind -- comprised five senior MPs from the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. It was set up to ensure that the government dissolves the Scorpions by June.

Sources close to the stand-off between Mbeki and the forces that defeated him at the ANC's Polokwane conference in December said the president planned to appeal to public opinion. They said Mbeki had accepted that the unit would have to move out of the National Prosecuting Authority's office, but that he wanted to keep it broadly intact.

"You cannot simply scrap the Scorpions and leave nothing in their place. There has to be some organisation to fight organised crime," an official close to the process told the newspaper. -- Sapa, Reuters

SA moves to scrap Scorpions unit

South Africa's security minister has tabled a proposal in parliament calling for the FBI-style Scorpions special investigations unit to be disbanded.

The Scorpions was set up in 1999 to fight organised crime and corruption and works separately from the police.

It has led the investigations into African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma and ex-police chief Jackie Selebi.

The move has been condemned by the opposition, which says the ruling ANC is trying to protect its leader.

The BBC's Peter Greste in Johannesburg says the unit is one of the most effective crime fighting forces in South Africa but it has become embroiled in a bitter political row.

There are concerns that evidence in high profile cases could be lost if the Scorpions was incorporated into the police services.


From the moment Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula began talking about dissolving the Scorpions, parliament erupted into cheers and jeers.

The ANC's backbenchers applauded the move that the party leaders endorsed in December.

He said the Directorate of Special Operations would be disbanded and its investigation responsibilities taken away from the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

"The Scorpions... will be dissolved and the organised crime unit of the police will be phased out and a new amalgamated unit will be created," he said.

"It is better to keep investigating units separate from prosecuting units for better command and control."

Our correspondent says there is still a lot of parliamentary procedure to go through before the Scorpions are finished as an independent force, but given the ANC's dominance it now seems inevitable.

Mr Zuma, who is favourite to become South Africa's president next year, has always said that the corruption charges against him are a political conspiracy.

He is due to go on trial in August.

The ANC wants the Scorpions to be disbanded by June and incorporated into the police force.

Earlier this month, a court provisionally charged the former police chief with corruption, accepting bribes worth 1.2m rand ($160,000, £80,000) and defeating the course of justice, after investigations by the Scorpions.

Mr Selebi was not required to plead but he has previously denied the charges.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2008/02/12 16:19:41 GMT

More than 800 KZN cops under investigation

Mail & Guardian
Miranda Andrew | Durban, South Africa
13 February 2008 06:18

At least 830 of KwaZulu-Natal's (KZN) law-enforcement officers are under investigation for a host of crimes ranging from assault through to rape and murder, figures released by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) revealed on Wednesday.

Of the 830 officers -- which include members of the South African Police Services, eThekwini metro police and other municipal police services -- only one officer has been convicted.

This was a police officer from the High Flats police station who was sentenced to 30 years for murder.

The crimes for which the officers are under investigation include death in police custody or as a result of police action, misconduct, neglect of duties, rape, domestic violence, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, murder and corruption.

KwaZulu-Natal provincial head of the ICD, Tabisa Ralo, on Wednesday said that of the 830 officers being probed, 174 are being scrutinised for deaths in police custody or as a result of police action.

Another 289 are being investigated for misconduct, while 351 are under investigation for failing to carry out their duties.

She said misconduct cases include assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, rape, indecent assault, extortion and corruption.

Up to 16 police officers had domestic violence cases filed against them by their own family members.

In the 2003/04 financial year, ending March 31 2004, figures on the ICD website showed that the directorate in the province had dealt with 725 complaints.

This increased to 728 complaints by March 31 2005 -- at least 102 cases less than the 830 cases Ralo said the ICD had on its books for the year ended December 31 2007.

According to the website, the Western Cape had the biggest number of cases filed against its law-enforcement officers in the year ending March 2004, with 1 289 cases. This decreased the following year to 1 257.

The second highest was Gauteng, while the Northern Cape was the lowest with only 292 complaints being investigated in the year ending March 2004.

This, however, increased a year later to 439 cases. The total number of cases investigated nationally by the ICD for the 2003/04 financial year stood at 5 903.

A year later, it dropped slightly to 5 790.

More people died at the hands of KwaZulu-Natal's law-enforcement officers than any other province.

In the financial year ending March 31 2005, there were 175 cases filed against officers for deaths in police custody or as a result of police action (a class one offence).

Ralo's figures released on Wednesday revealed that in 2007 not much had changed -- 174 officers are being investigated for the same offences.

Of the 174 officers being examined, 146 are SAPS members while 28 are municipal or metro police officers.

"The role of the ICD forms part of an ongoing commitment to transform policing in South Africa ," said Ralo.

"The ICD is an independent mechanism established to ensure that policing in our country takes place within human rights and that those officers who do not uphold the rule of law are held accountable for their actions," she said.

However, she said there is a need to keep good relations with other state organs in order to preserve peace.

"There is a need to forge and maintain good relations with other state organs in a quest to preserve peace, national unity and the indivisibility of our country and secure the well-being of the people of South Africa ," Ralo said.

eThekwini metro police spokesperson Superintendent John Tyala said he believed that less then ten metro officers were under investigation by the ICD.

"Our management has committed itself to clamp down n corruption and this has served as a deterrent to other members."

Tyala urged members of the public not to attempt to bribe his officers.

"Don't bribe our members because you will be enticing them ... they too have families and if they lose their jobs what will be their future?" he said.

"They will be unemployed."

Tyala encouraged members of the public to report cases because "we are servants of the public and you invest in us to do our job -- so please come forward and report crimes committed by our members".

Provincial SAPS spokesperson Director Phindile Radebe said: "I'm not aware of this [the figures released by Ralo ]... I'll come back to you," she said.

Ralo said her team was committed to curbing acts of criminality and misconduct.

She said anyone wishing to report complaints about law-enforcement officers should contact the ICD on 031 3101300 or visit its offices in Kingsfield Place, Field Street, Durban. -- Sapa

ANC rejects opposition calls for a new govt

Michael Hamlyn
Mail & Guardian
Cape Town, South Africa
13 February 2008 03:35

The African National Congress (ANC) has rejected the call made on Tuesday by the Democratic Alliance (DA) for Parliament to be dissolved and new elections held, as well as the call made by the Independent Democrats (ID) for the government to resign and be replaced.

A statement issued on Wednesday from Luthuli House in Johannesburg -- the party headquarters -- said: "We believe that such calls have no merit and smack of rank opportunism. The motions moved by the two parties in the National Assembly border on political bankruptcy."

People need solutions that would alleviate these challenges, not political grandstanding, said the statement, which, unusually, came from the party apparatus instead of the Parliamentary caucus.

"By making these unfortunate calls, the DA and ID have further demonstrated their lack of interest in the consolidation of the gains South Africa has made in the past 14 years," it said.

The statement continued that the ANC has full confidence in its policies and their potential to help deliver the better life for all that has been promised to the people of this country.

It did, however, acknowledge that a lot still needs to be done to ensure that all South Africans live under decent, humane conditions.

But it concluded: "For this objective to be realised, the nation needs to pull together in search of lasting solutions."

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