/ 10 April 2008

Scorpions ‘may not be disbanded by June’

It is possible that the crime-fighting Scorpions may not be incorporated into the South African Police Service (SAPS) by June, the African National Congress’s (ANC) Siphiwe Nyanda said on Thursday.

”If it is not feasible, then it cannot be done by that time,” said Nyanda, a member of the ANC national executive committee.

He was speaking at a seminar hosted by the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria on the incorporation of the Scorpions into the police service. This comes after the ANC’s December 2007 conference resolved to incorporate the unit into the police by June this year.

Nyanda said it was important for the ruling party to separate investigations from prosecutions as this could lead to the likelihood of the abuse of power. The ANC felt that the National Prosecuting Authority was collecting evidence ”illegally” because it was not accountable to Parliament.

Nyanda also highlighted the issue of a ”conflictual” relationship between the SAPS and the Scorpions.

”The most popular view among opposition parties and the liberal media is that the reason why we decided to [dissolve] the Scorpions is because they have carried out investigations against high-profile senior members of the ANC, among others.

”We see it differently. Our firm belief is that the Scorpions have been used to pursue a political agenda and to target certain individuals in the ruling party.

”There is no denying on the part of the ANC that one of the most celebrated investigations of cases [is] that of Jacob Zuma. It is also the most controversial … and exposed the bad side of the Scorpions.”

He said the unit had made use of ”Hollywood-style raids” to try to influence the outcome of the Polokwane conference by issuing statements about the imminent charging of Zuma, and this demonstrated human rights violations.

He said the ANC ‘s decision on the unit stemmed from the manner in which the Scorpions had conducted themselves over ”a long period of time”.

Nyanda said Parliament would make the final ruling on the matter and that public opinion would be sought.

He said the task of the ruling party was to ensure crime-fighting capabilities of all agencies as the country’s crime statistics were unacceptable, adding that the party did not want to get rid of the unit but rather that its skills be retained in a new entity.


However, Independent Democrats leader Patricia de Lille said that the unit should not be disbanded, a sentiment that was also voiced by the Democratic Alliance’s Sandra Botha and United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa, who were also present at the seminar.

De Lille said: ”The Independent Democrats will support any measures taken to fight crime, but we will also oppose any measures that weaken this ability.”

Work that was done by the Scorpions could not be done by the police. She said she recognised the tension arising between them and the SAPS. ”It is also clear that there has been political interference in the work of the Scorpions.”

She said she believed that the unit should maintain its independence, its prosecuting power and that salary levels should be retained.

Botha said that the disbanding of the unit was of ”great concern”. She added that the Scorpions were a ”crucial unit”, adding: ”Should South Africa have to lose the Scorpions, then we’d lose a great deal of ability to tackle organised criminal activity.”

She said the Scorpions had succeeded in rooting out crime and were a real threat to criminal activity.

Holomisa said his party was opposed to attempts to undermine the effectiveness of the unit, though he agreed with the calls for discipline among the Scorpions. — Sapa