Simelane sidelines SCCU head
Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has restructured the commercial crimes unit and sidelined its head Chris Jordaan, despite assurances to the contrary from Justice Minister Jeff Radebe.
The Democratic Alliance said on Tuesday the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) "remains decapitated and disbanded" in line with plans unveiled by NPA boss Menzi Simelane in mid-April.
Simelane was subsequently told by Radebe in a meeting on April 29 to put on hold moves to restructure the SCCU and three other specialised crime-fighting units within the NPA.
The plan also targeted the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), the priority crimes litigation unit and the sexual offences unit.
It envisioned curtailing the independence of the units by placing them under the provincial directors of public prosecution.
It caused an outcry, with commentators accusing Simelane of trying to weaken the AFU with its history of tackling high profile cases.
Radebe told reporters last week that the AFU remained "intact" and Simelane's plan on ice. Asked about the other three specialised units, he said the same applied to them.
Moved to NPA head office
However, the DA said Jordaan had left his office and been moved to the NPA head office in Pretoria to serve as a special adviser to Simelane.
This was in line with the future role the strategic plan envisioned for all four heads of the special units.
Jordaan could not be reached at his old office at the SCCU on Tuesday.
When he was eventually located by Sapa, he said he was "not in a position to comment" on the matter.
DA justice spokesperson Dene Smuts said in spite of Radebe's assurances, the staff of the SCCU had been assigned to provincial directorates of prosecution and the unit, with its success rate of 93.7% at last count, was no longer functioning in its original capacity.
The restructuring of the unit began in February, two months before Simelane briefed Parliament, and it had since been split into two divisions.
One was called the commercial crime component and was charged with tackling the remaining workload of the defunct Directorate for Special Operations (known as the Scorpions), whose disbanding Simelane oversaw.
The other dealt with so-called "complex" crimes.
Unfair to SA
An angry Smuts said these changes had not been reversed despite orders from Radebe, who claimed in Parliament last month that Simelane had kept him in the dark about the plans afoot.
She said the AFU appeared to have escaped a similar fate because of the high media profile of its head, Willie Hofmeyr.
"It is unjust that one unit gets rescued. The Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit is more important, and it is bitterly unfair to the people of South Africa who need the reassurance that these units can continue to fight crime as they are supposed to."
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke said she could not comment on the changes at the commercial crimes unit.
"If we are talking about changes, then the line from the ministry is that this has been put on hold and there is nothing else I can say," she said.