/ 21 May 2009

Head of new priority crime unit named

Senior Western Cape policeman and former African National Congress (ANC) underground operative Anwa Dramat has been named head of the priority crime unit that will succeed the Scorpions.

The announcement was made on Thursday by Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa, who also said July 1 had been set as the date on which the Scorpions will formally cease to exist.

Dramat (41) has been in the police since the mid-1990s, when he played key roles in combating Muslim extremist movement Pagad, taxi violence and gangsterism, but is relatively unknown outside police circles.

He is one of two deputy provincial commissioners in the Western Cape, with responsibility for visible policing and investigations, and also heads the SAPS’ provincial ”war room”.

He was jailed on Robben Island after receiving a 12-year sentence in 1988 for participating in activities of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto weSizwe.

His name also emerged in Truth Commission hearings as a victim, along with Tony Yengeni and Ashley Forbes, of security police torturer Captain Jeff Benzien.

Fellow islander, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, described him on Thursday as ”one of the most successful underground operatives”.

Mthethwa told journalists in Cape Town that Dramat had special expertise in the areas of crime intelligence and underground operative work ”especially within the serious and violent crimes environment”.

He said the unit Dramat would head, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations, would focus on serious organised and commercial crime, and serious corruption.

In a brief prepared acceptance speech, the diminutive Dramat said he was ”deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.

”I commit myself to work for all South Africans to ensure that our country finally eradicates the scourge of fraud, corruption and organised crime,” he said.

”The war against organised crime has been strengthened: the responsibility lies with all of us to ensure that there’s no hiding space for criminals.”

The appointment had been the subject of intense speculation.

”I think the media should applaud us that we kept the secret secret,” Mthethwa joked.

He said the task team that made the selection had been looking for someone within the enforcement agencies who would understand the mammoth task the country faced in fighting corruption and organised crime.

”Somebody who would have proven himself or herself to be one strong fighter against crime in the country,” he said.

Acting national police commissioner Tim Williams said the police were ”very happy” with Dramat’s appointment.

”We will keep all doors open of cooperation where he needs assistance … he can be sure that he will have the fullest cooperation from our management.”

Staff of the new directorate are to be drawn from the ranks of the police and the Scorpions.

Mthethwa said the unit would take over all 639 cases still on the Scorpions’ books.

”We are certain that the establishment of the directorate will usher in a new chapter in the crime-fighting ability of the South African law enforcement agencies,” he said.

The ANC pushed through legislation to scrap the Scorpions after supporters of party president Jacob Zuma claimed the unit was being used to pursue a political vendetta against him.

The unit scored a number of high-profile successes during its existence, including the conviction on corruption charges of Zuma’s former financial adviser Schabir Shaik.

Its bid to prosecute Zuma on linked charges sunk when tapes revealed an apparent conspiracy between then Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka over the timing of the announcement of the charges. — Sapa