Opposition: Scorpions Bill marks dark day in SA history

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe’s decision to enact the legislation disbanding the Scorpions marks a dark day in South Africa’s democracy, opposition parties said on Friday.

But in stark contrast, the move was welcomed by African National Congress (ANC) alliance partner the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Motlanthe’s decision would have lasting ramifications for the rule of law, judicial independence and the effectiveness of crime fighting institutions in South Africa,” Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson Dianne Kohler-Barnard said.

“This decision, taken in complete defiance of public opinion, marks a dark day in our short democratic history,” she said.

The Presidency confirmed earlier on Friday that Motlanthe had approved the two Bills.

Spokesperson Thabo Masebe said the president had approved the South African Police Service Amendment Bill 2008 and the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill 2008.

The Bills transfer the Scorpions investigators to the SAPS and give a ministerial committee wide powers to determine what crimes the new unit that replaces the Scorpions, the directorate for priority crime investigation (DPCI), should investigate.

Kohler-Barnard said it was as clear as day that this decision had been taken for reasons of political expediency, in a bid to save the careers of corrupt ANC politicians in government, and to advance the closed patronage society that ANC president Jacob Zuma and his allies “seem so intent on building”.

“The president’s decision to disband South Africa’s most successful crime fighting unit will, in the years to come, be remembered as a defining moment for the ANC,” she said.

No ANC politician or business crony would ever again be investigated now that this unit, which served without fear or favour, had been destroyed.

“With reports now circulating that Jacob Zuma’s former lawyer is in line to become the new Director of Public Prosecutions, it is quite clear that the rule of law is facing an unprecedented attack,” Kohler-Barnard said.

Velaphi Ndlovu of the Inkatha Freedom Party, said the move once again showed the extent to which the ANC would go to push its own agenda, against the wishes of most South Africans.

“From the start, the disbandment of this elite unit has had very little to do with bolstering our fight against crime, and everything to do with a political vendetta against them,” he said.

The ANC was guilty of abusing power and undermining democracy.

“In spite of all the ruling party’s talk about democracy, our Republic is at risk, as the ANC continues to fail in separating its own interests from those of the state.

“It attacks the judiciary when it pleases, abuses the state broadcaster for its own purposes, and for a decade now has filled our front pages with endless stories of scandal and corruption.

“If not stopped now, this degeneration will have gone too far to redress,” Ndlovu said.

However, Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said the decision was an important victory for Cosatu, which had for several years been demanding that “this force” be disbanded.

The Scorpions had evolved into a separate “elite” force which was not sufficiently accountable.

“Its units were being redirected from the fight against organised crime to political campaigns against targeted individuals. It became a law unto itself and undermined the legal rights of those they were investigating,” he said.

“We shall oppose against any tendency within the SAPS to adopt the Scorpions’ bad practices and political bias into its ranks, and shall not hesitate to criticise them if any of their officers abuse people’s constitutional and human rights,” Craven said.—Sapa

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