What lies ahead for crime-fighting unit?

2008-12-13 00:00

The sun has finally set on the Scorpions as Parliament has passed the bill for the incorporation of the unit into the South African Police Services. After all that has been said and done, the unit will cease to exist by itself under the National Directorate of Public Prosecution’s umbrella.

This brings an end to a unit that, when it was launched, prosecuted without fear or favour and beyond all borders across society. The Scorpions made headlines when they went for the big fish, which sounded warning bells that anyone and everyone, regardless of his or her social, financial or political standing, would be brought to book if he or she committed a crime.

One of the luxuries the Scorpions had was that they could hand-pick cases, which re-sulted in a high conviction rate or did it? It is still unclear what the unit’s success rate was and, as a result, it is impossible to justify the resources it used.

It is also unclear what criteria are used to prosecute cases and determine their urgency and how the unit dealt with the allocation of resources. A prime example is how only a few individuals were fingered and prosecuted with regard to the arms deal while 10s, if not 100s, of hands were in the cookie jar.

The unit missed the opportunity to clear the cloud hanging over the arms deal once and for all. The Scorpions’ hesitance to grab the bull by the horns gave life to the allegations that they were being controlled at a political level. Some of the decisions made by the former national director of public prosecutions, Bulelani “prima facie” Ngcuka, clearly showed the shortcomings of the ruling party’s system of deploying cadres into key government positions to allow the party to have its way, as Ngcuka showed that it leaned more towards a particular clique of the African National Congress.

Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s appointment to his position also smacks of deployment, as a number of years ago he mentioned how former president Thabo Mbeki pleaded with him to return to the legal profession. As a result, it was by no coincidence that Moseneke was later appointed judge.

There is no doubt in my mind that there was political interference on the part of the Scorpions, but whether this warrants the unit’s integration with the SAPS I am not sure.

What is going to be interesting to see is what capacity the unit will take within the SAPS and the dynamics that will exist if and when the former national police commissioner Jackie Selebi returns to his post, as it was this same unit that secured a search warrant against him and later charged him.

The ANC seems to have not fully appreciated what it was getting into when it started the crime-fighting unit. It’s like a parent giving birth to a child and later killing it, in cold blood, nogal.

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