Battle for Scorpions not yet over
Johannesburg businessman Hugh Glenister has instructed his legal team to apply to the Constitutional Court for an order to prevent the government from disbanding the Scorpions.
A spokesperson for Glenister, Dani Cohen, said he had a meeting with his legal team following his failed bid in the Pretoria High Court on Wednesday, and had instructed his team to take the matter to the highest court in the country.
The Pretoria High Court on Wednesday left the door open for Glenister to take his application to the Constitutional Court when it struck his application from the high court roll.
Judge Willie van der Merwe said in a written judgement that the court did not have the jurisdiction to decide on the matter.
“I am furthermore of the opinion that this matter involves crucial and important political matters in which a high court has no jurisdiction, but only the Constitutional Court.
“I am therefore of the view that this court has no jurisdiction to decide the matter but that it is a matter that could possibly fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court,” Van der Merwe wrote in his ruling.
Glenister told reporters outside court: “I’m somewhat disappointed ... I was hoping for a better answer ... but we obviously have to understand where the court is coming from.
“We have to look at everything the judge has written, and we have to analyse it, and then decide what our next steps are. But obviously we are not giving up,” he said.
He initially brought an application asking that the court interdict President Thabo Mbeki and six others from initiating legislation that sought to disband the Directorate of Special Operations, or Scorpions.
Before the case could be heard, however, legislation was initiated by the Cabinet, and two Bills, the General Law Amendment Bill and the National Prosecuting Amendment Bill—dealing with the disbanding of the unit—were published.
Glenister then amended his application asking that the president and the relevant ministers be prohibited from passing the legislation.
He contended that the Scorpions had been extremely successful in combating serious crime, and said the decision to disband the unit was taken to safeguard prominent members and leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) from investigation and prosecution by the unit.
The court concluded that the principle of separation of powers prevented it from interfering with the executive’s power to prepare and initiate legislation, as well as with the right of Parliament to deliberate on proposed legislation brought before it.
The court further concluded that if exceptional circumstances existed—warranting interference with parliamentary procedures—it was for the Constitutional Court to decide on that issue.
Far from over
Meanwhile, the fight for the Scorpions is far from over, United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa said on Wednesday.
He was reacting to the judgement that removed Glenister’s application from the court roll.
“The judge did not dismiss the merits of our argument. If indeed it is a question of jurisdiction, then the UDM is of the opinion that it should be taken to a higher court that does have jurisdiction,” Holomisa said.
His and five other parties joined Glenister’s case as friends of the court, and Holomisa said they would now consult with their legal team.
“In the meanwhile, we will pursue every other parliamentary and legal avenue open to us to halt this madness of the African National Congress [ANC],” Holomisa said.
National Prosecuting Authority acting head Mokotedi Mpshe said on Wednesday that he understood why South Africans were concerned about the incorporation of the Scorpions into the police.
“The government as well as the president of this country have gone on record that the idea here is to come with an elite unit with all the capacity and strength to fight organised crime.
“Of course there has been concern as to whether statements by the president and the government are really true ... Once you see success in a particular unit and if told that the unit may be phased out, of course South Africans are worried,” Mpshe said in Johannesburg.
He was responding to Glenister’s bid to stop the disbanding of the Scorpions.
Mpshe urged the public to give a new special police unit incorporating the Scorpions a chance.
“You have these views and I cannot say if people are right or wrong. Give it a chance, let it move, let the process go on and let us wait and see,” he said.—Sapa