'No regrets' about Scorpions bid

2009-01-30 18:04

Cape Town - Hugh Glenister has "no regrets" about his failed attempt to save the Scorpions, his attorney said on Friday following presidential approval to disband the elite crime-busting unit.

"I don't think this matter would have been shoved into the public eye as much as it has been but for somebody like Mr Glenister, so no he has absolutely no regrets," his attorney Kevin Louis told News24 on Friday.

Glenister made a submission to the Presidency in December, following failed court bids to block the state's plans to dissolve the unit.

It was argued that the bills violated South Africa's obligation as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption to maintain independent units to combat corruption.

But Louis on Thursday received a letter from the Office of the President stating that President Kgalema Motlanthe had approved two pieces of legislation disbanding the Scorpions: the SAPS Amendment Bill, 2008 and the NPA Amendment Bill, 2008.

Cool heads won't prevail

"He's obviously very disappointed," said Louis. "He was hoping that at some point in time cool heads and sense would prevail but its clearly not the case - but I suppose that's something to be expected in an election year."

Despite numerous enquiries, neither the Scorpions, the office of the Presidency nor the Department of Safety and Security could say when the unit would be disbanded.

"The [bills] will be published in the government gazette and then [from] there it will be processed by the relevant departments," said presidency spokesperson, Thabo Masebe.

Scorpions spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the unit would release a statement with more details.

Several cases are still being dealt with by the unit, notably criminal investigations against African National Congress president Jacob Zuma and suspended police chief Jackie Selebi.

The Directorate of Special Operations, as it is also known, fell under the umbrella of the National Prosecuting Authority. Under new legislation it will be absorbed into the police, a move critics have slammed for the implied loss of independence.

"If you look at the reasons why the Scorpions were set up where they were set up - those reasons haven't changed," said Louise. "I think frankly the whole reason for putting the Scorpions under the auspices of the police is so that they can control them."

Encouraged by support

But Glenister was "encouraged" by the reaction and support of thousands of South Africans who supported his attempts. Ninety-thousand South Africans signed his petition by August last year, he said at the time and he was supported in court by the ACDP, DA, ID, IFP, UDM and the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

"I think we've shown ordinary members of the public that there's nothing stopping you [from] standing up and making a stand for what you believe in and to say to the government: listen we don't agree with what you do," said Louis.

Glenister has said he spent about R3m on various court bids to save the Scorpions. About R55 000 had been raised in donations by August last year with the businessman funding the most part.

"You've got the last watchdog which is actually looking after taxpayer's money and [the government] want to get rid of that as well," he told News24 at the time.

"They don't want anybody looking over their shoulders. As all South Africans we have the right to know that the money we send in is looked after and spent as an investment for the future for all South Africans."