Show of force against Scorpion

2008-01-10 00:00

Pretoria — Observers have described the arrest of advocate Gerrie Nel, the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) chief investigator in the case against Commissioner Jackie Selebi, as nothing more than a “show of strength”.

Advocate Mokotedi Msphe, acting head of the NPA, has expressed his shock and concern at Nel’s arrest.

Nel, the head of the Scorpions in Gauteng, who faces charges of corruption and obstruction of justice, was allowed out on bail of R10 000 yesterday afternoon.

The charges relate to alleged incidents between 2004 and 2005.

Ian Small-Smith, his attorney, said Nel was handcuffed in front of his wife and small children when he was arrested at his home in Garsfontein, Pretoria, late on Tuesday night.

He said 20 police officers swooped on Nel’s home at about 9 pm, arrested him and took him to a place where another 30 police officers awaited his arrival.

“If this was a violent criminal deed, and if he was a dangerous person, I could understand it, but it looks more like a show of strength,” Small-Smith said.

He tried throughout the night to serve an urgent application to have the warrant declared invalid on the police, but was unable to do so, partly because the investigating officer had switched off his phone.

He said the police approached several prosecutors to approve their warrant. However, the prosecutors were unwilling to comply because of a lack of evidence.

Mpshe confirmed this. He said that the police have been trying since September last year to obtain a warrant.

There was also an agreement between the NPA and the police that Mpshe and advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi, the acting head of the prosecutions service, would be informed before Nel was taken into custody.

According to Mpshe, Nel’s arrest warrant was issued on November 22. Two weeks after that, the police said they were not aware of it.

Mpshe also said policy dictates that no prosecutor can be arrested without the written consent of the relevant director of public prosecutions.

Small-Smith said a police director in North West apparently arranged for a Pretoria magistrate to approve the warrant, without the file having been seen by a prosecutor. The name of the magistrate is not known; the warrant contains no more than his signature.

Nel’s bail application in the magistrate’s court followed attempts by his legal team to get the high court to have the validity of the warrant declared null and void. The case was postponed indefinitely.

Gauteng police spokesman Superintendent Lungelo Dlamini denied that a large number of armed police officials arrested him at his home.

Nel spent the night of his arrest in the Pretoria Moot police station’s holding cells. Yesterday morning he was taken to his home, where the police seized certain documents.

Sue Segar reports that the Democratic Alliance (DA) asked yesterday why National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi is allowed to remain free, while Nel, the man who led the probe into Selebi’s alleged criminal activities, has been arrested.

DA Safety and Security spokeswoman Dianne Kohler-Barnard said Nel’s arrest gives the impression that South Africa’s criminal justice system favours some and not others.

Inkatha Freedom Party justice spokesman Koos van der Merwe said yesterday that the independence of the NPA is being seriously damaged by Justice Minister Bridget Mabandla’s involvement in the saga.

Sapa reports that African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) president Reverend Kenneth Meshoe said Mpshe should be replaced as acting head of the NPA if a decision to prosecute Selebi is not taken soon.

Meshoe said the ACDP hoped the arrest of Nel would not intimidate the NPA from proceeding against Selebi.

Mpshe told Radio 702 earlier that the decision will be announced before the end of the month.

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