Why disband the scorpions?

2008-01-23 00:00

On Monday, opposition parties vigorously condemned the decision by the African National Congress’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to disband the Scorpions and to absorb some members of the unit into the South African Police Service. The implementation seems to be something of a rush job: the NEC wants it completed by June.

The enforcement of law and order is a pillar of our democracy, and the Scorpions have played a vital part in sustaining this provision of the Constitution. What message does the disbandment of the unit carry in South Africa and to the rest of the world? Many here will be convinced that the upper echelons of the ruling party now form an arrogant, corrupt and secretive clique which believes itself to be above the law — and above the Constitution itself — and believes that it has the right to manipulate the South African justice system for its own ends. Elsewhere, the miracle of the South African democracy and the “rainbow nation”, which had begun to lose its lustre when the murky aspects of the arms deal first emerged, now looks seriously tarnished. The election of Jacob Zuma, a man sullied by charges of fraud and corruption, as ANC leader and presidential heir apparent, accelerated the process, and it appears now that the ruling party is intent on finishing the job. What next? The independence of the judiciary? The freedom of the press? Where does it stop?

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