NPA, cops work to mend relations

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) are hard at work repairing their relationship ahead of a planned merger with the Scorpions, NPA acting head Mokotedi Mpshe said on Wednesday.

”We’re focusing primarily on salvaging whatever relations there are. When we merge the Scorpions and SAPS, the relations must be good. We can’t hope by some kind of magic that things will work,” Mpshe told reporters in Johannesburg.

Asked whether this meant the disbanding of the Scorpions was inevitable, he replied: ”Cabinet has spoken. Parliament has got to decide.

”This is how the government wants things to be … We’ve got to ensure that it works.”

President Thabo Mbeki in February announced that the Scorpions would be dissolved. A new, larger unit, merging the SAPS and the Scorpions would be created.

On Wednesday, Johannesburg businessman Hugh Glenister failed in a court bid to stop the government from disbanding the Scorpions, but Glenister has indicated he would turn to the Constitutional Court.

”I will abide by the order of the court,” said Mpshe. ”I can’t say nay or yay in the matter. I can simply say the process must continue.”

The Scorpions are investigating both African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma and suspended police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi for corruption.

The head of the NPA, Vusi Pikoli, was suspended last year at about the same time it became public knowledge that the Scorpions were investigating Selebi — who has since been charged with corruption and defeating the ends of justice.

At the time of Pikoli’s suspension, Mbeki cited a breakdown with Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Brigitte Mabandla as the reason.

Regular meetings

Mpshe emphasised the NPA’s independence in the address to a PricewaterhouseCoopers conference on economic crime on Wednesday.

”We have the minister of justice who has got political oversight over the NPA. That does not mean the minister of justice can say: ‘You cannot prosecute person A.’ The minister may call for a report … but that is information … it has nothing to do with the decision-making process.”

Mpshe said he and acting police national commissioner Tim Williams had regular meetings in an attempt to create good relations.

The police and the Scorpions, who fall under the NPA, have been at loggerheads since inception of the Scorpions in September 1999. It started off as bickering over who got the credit for investigations, but escalated, so much so that Mbeki appointed Judge Sisi Khampepe to head a commission of inquiry into the Scorpions’ mandate and location.

This antagonism intensified when the Scorpions prevented a police officer from making an arrest over an illegal consignment of abalone at the OR Tambo International Airport.

The police then arrested two undercover Scorpions agents conducting an airport sting involving a drug syndicate and cocaine worth an estimated R5-million on the street, claiming they were uncooperative and refused to produce identification.

Mpshe said it was crucial that the expertise of the Scorpions not be lost in the merger with the police.

”We’ve got to be seen to be taking the expertise of the Scorpions and merge that with the expertise of the organised-crime unit of the SAPS.”

He stressed that Scorpions members must be involved in the process and must be kept up to date as to what was happening to avoid ”uncertainties”.

Mpshe said he understood why some 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 …”

But he urged the public to give the new super unit 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

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