Disclosing the facts

2008-04-30 00:00

Using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), the Democratic Alliance has succeeded in forcing the presidency to release the Khampepe Commission Report on the Scorpions: the full content of the report will be gazetted on May 5.

This is a fine achievement on the part of the opposition and of civil society (which has been vociferous in its opposition to the disbanding of the unit), especially because the presidency was, earlier, so reluctant to release the report that it invoked a PAIA clause to the effect that disclosure would “cause prejudice to the defence, security and international relations of the republic”. DA leader Helen Zille, presuming that the release of the report no longer poses a threat to national security, has welcomed the move, adding that it will be an important source of information for Parliament and the public during the legislative process deciding the Scorpions’ future.

The release of the report should answer a number of questions. We should discover, first, just why the ANC was so eager to disband the unit or undermine its effectiveness by having it incorporated into the South African Police

Services. We should find out if this really was (as reportedly admitted to Zille by ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe) a post-Polokwane attempt to weaken the Scorpions and control investigations threatening to reveal wrongdoing by various prominent ANC members. If so this would confirm that some in the ANC believe party solidarity has precedence over the state, the antithesis of true democracy and a flouting of the SA Constitution. Also, we should learn why it is that a report whose content had remained secret for so long is now made available, albeit under pressure: a sudden change of heart in response to public feeling, perhaps? Or is there some other agenda at work here, related possibly to the reduction of political and popular support for President Thabo Mbeki?

The other side of the coin is that the report should tell us if the Scorpions’ investigations have always been conducted with scrupulous fairness, free of political or any other bias. Civil society has come to believe that their activities and successes are based on superior detective work and meticulous evidence-gathering, and it’s important for us to know whether this is true, or whether their work is sometimes politically tainted. South Africans should look forward keenly to the report’s release.

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