ANC defends death of the Scorpions

The African National Congress (ANC) on Thursday defended its stance on the disbanding of the Scorpions, accusing the unit of “serious violations of the Constitution and the rule of law”.

The ANC’s submission during public hearings at Parliament on legislation to disband the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) was presented by ANC national executive committee member Siphiwe Nyanda.

He said the party had for some time, long before the Khampepe commission’s final report was released, been consistently cautioning that the DSO’s use of operatives—including private-sector sub-contractors who had not obtained appropriate security clearances—compromised the security interests of the country and its citizens.

The ANC had also repeatedly raised concerns on the DSO’s liaisons with foreign intelligence structures in violation of the Constitution and national legislation.

Further, the Scorpions’ “media-driven operations”, some of which did not result in prosecutions, had sought, “as the primary objective of their sting, the humiliation of individuals”.

In respect of those who were lucky to escape the embarrassment and humiliation associated with the “Hollywood-style arrests and harassment”, the DSO and national director of public prosecutions “either leaked or allowed to be leaked” information that impugned their integrity and subjected them to defamatory publications instead of due process before an independent and impartial court, as provided in the Constitution.

Nyanda said it was curious that political parties and others who claimed a liberal outlook and commitment to the rule of law had “been falling over each other” to have Parliament “turn a blind eye to the serious violations of the Constitution and the rule of law by the DSO”.

“Despite an independent commission of inquiry headed by a judge of the high court finding that the DSO has acted outside the strictures of the Constitution and national legislation, compromised the security of the republic, exceeded its legal mandate and operated outside detailed oversight, there has been a clamour that it should be allowed to continue in perpetuity,” Nyanda said.

‘No reason in policy or law’
The Democratic Alliance’s Dianne Kohler-Barnard, on the other hand, said, as had been so powerfully articulated by a number of independent institutions over the past few days, there was simply no reason in policy or in law for the Scorpions to be disbanded.

“This is quite simply a political decision, taken by the ruling party to protect its leaders from any further criminal investigations. It is a cynical and politically motivated decision that must be rejected if we are to ensure that the war on crime is won,” she said.

It was clear that the majority of South Africans—as evidenced by the overwhelming number of submissions made to the committee, and countless public opinion surveys—were against the Scorpions’ disbandment, she said,

It was “absolute madness to even consider destroying the one unit that was a shining light in a sea of darkness”.

The Scorpions had been without parallel in tackling complex criminal syndicates and dealing with the corruption “rotting our body politic”, she said, adding: “They have achieved a level of success that is without peer within our law-enforcement agencies.

“Most importantly, they have built a level of public confidence that is streets ahead of other law-enforcement agencies. This kind of trust is essential to help South Africans believe that crime can be beaten,” Kohler-Barnard said.

In her submission, Independent Democrats (ID) leader Patricia de Lille said the huge public outcry against the Scorpions’ disbandment was based on the belief that such a move would take the country backward in fighting crime.

The ID recognised the Scorpions were not without fault.
“Their faults, however, certainly do not require such a drastic measure as shutting down their operations and moving them into the structures of the South African Police Service.”

It would be far more responsible to put in place measures to remedy whatever faults and concerns existed, such as those advocated by the Khampepe commission, De Lille said.

Steve Swart of the African Christian Democratic Party said the decision to disband the Scorpions was motivated by the fact that the unit had been “too successful, particularly in its investigation of high-profile ANC members”.

“Can we allow the interests of the ruling party to be put above the interests of all South Africans?” he asked.

Further public hearings on the legislation will be held in the provinces next week, with a final round at Parliament on August 19.—Sapa

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