Dissent and disgust at hearing on Scorpions' future

The commercial farmers’ body Free State Agriculture on Thursday withdrew from a parliamentary public hearing on the future of the Scorpions and opted to hand in a written submission instead.

Free State Agriculture’s CEO, Henk Vermeulen, said the farmers withdrew after the public meeting, in their opinion, turned into an African National Congress (ANC) political meeting.

“We handed in our presentation to parliamentary committee officials and would write a letter to the committees as well,” he said, adding that the atmosphere at the public hearing was not “conducive” for them to make a representation as the meeting had not focused “on the issue at hand”.

He said Free State ANC leader Ace Magashule had hijacked the public hearing from the national parliamentarians for political purposes, and that “racial remarks” were made.

Hundreds of people gathered at the Mangaung Outdoor Sport Centre in Bloemfontein for the public hearing on the closure of the Scorpions.

The meeting was initially overshadowed by political debates between ANC members, who questioned the presentations of opposition parties in the Free State.

Free State Democratic Alliance leader Roy Jankielsohn urged the chairperson of the parliamentary committee of safety and security, Maggie Sotyu, to “at least make sure” that the public hearing was not “a rubber-stamp for a Polokwane decision”.

Jankielsohn said the Scorpions had investigated alleged corruption at Free State municipalities “where poor people’s” money had been stolen. He said these alleged crimes were committed under the “organised crime sphere” by politicians who were now feeling the Scorpions’ sting.

Magashule said the DA was for the Scorpions because the crime-fighting unit in most cases entered into plea bargains with white people while in many cases black people were prosecuted.

Free State African Christian Democratic Party leader Casper Nordier was at one stage shouted down by the crowd when attempting to answer questions.

Overwhelming support for the closure of the Scorpions also came from Reverend SB Dire of the Mount Zion AME Church in Bloemfontein, who attacked the DA and other white parties for harbouring “Koevoet groups, special force groups and all racists”.

Dire, who at one stage had the tent in an uproar by shouting “Thank the ANC” several times, said those who wanted the Scorpions to stay did not want the “truth to come out”.

“The DA and white parties must come and apologise. You did not want blacks to govern, to take charge, do not want them to succeed,” he said.

Asked about the representations made, Sotyu said the committee members were not there “to control the mood of the people”.

She said the mood had been the same at all the public hearings thus far in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape.—Sapa

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