I won’t make ‘Scorpions’ a spy outfit’

The head of the “new Scorpions”, Anwa Dramat, promised on Thursday that he will not turn the unit into a spy outfit — amid concerns that his only training and background is in the intelligence services.

Dramat, a former ANC underground operative and ex-deputy police commissioner for intelligence in the Western Cape, spoke to the Mail & Guardian after his surprise appointment by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Deputy prosecutions boss Willie Hofmeyr was widely tipped as the head of the new Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), which will replace the Scorpions as the country’s elite crime-fighting outfit.

On Thursday morning Hofmeyr had not been informed that he had failed to make the cut. He attended Mthethwa’s press conference, where Dramat’s appointment was announced.

The appointment was met with surprise and disbelief by a range of sources in the criminal justice sector.

Most of the disquiet centred on his intelligence background. “What this unit needs is a senior cop who knows how to investigate, not a spook,” said a Scorpions investigator.

A senior Western Cape police officer also had reservations about the suitability of Dramat’s appointment.

“It is a very worrying sign indeed, pointing to the state placing a premium on intelligence rather than on policing. Dramat is a spook. That’s where he comes from. That’s his strength, not good old-fashioned prosecution.”

However, another colleague described him as “moderate, open-minded and very focused”.

Dramat told the M&G he does not “foresee a major shift” from the three-pronged crime-fighting model utilised by the Scorpions — linking investigation, intelligence and prosecution — even though specialised prosecutors will not be based in the DPCI.

Prosecutors will be seconded from the NPA to assist the new unit with priority investigations. Dramat said his investigators would cultivate a close working relationship with prosecutors to ensure the successful prosecution of suspects.

The new unit, officially set to operate from July 1, is housed in the South African Police Service.

Dramat confirmed that it would continue to investigate corruption, but would also focus on the “immediate threat” of organised crime.

He promised to prosecute without fear or favour and shrugged off suggestions that his strong ANC underground links would influence him in his work.

He would not be drawn on whether he would continue the Scorpions’ probe into the arms deal. “I am not really in a position to comment on that,” he said, adding that he had to get a briefing first.

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