Scorpions exodus hampers work

2009-02-17 12:15

Cape Town - The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) admitted on Tuesday that the imminent disbanding of the Scorpions and a sustained exodus of staff could seriously hamper ongoing arms deal-related investigations.

"We are losing people we cannot replace and that could really impact on one of these serious cases," Willie Hofmeyr, the deputy national director of public prosecutions, told Parliament's public accounts committee (Scopa).

"The dissolution of the DSO (Directorate of Special Operations) caused uncertainty. We are losing six people a month," he added.

The acting head of the NPA, Mokotedi Mpshe, told the committee he believed that the capacity to handle cases stemming from alleged corruption in the multi-billion rand arms deal would not be lost, but that the probe would take longer than expected.

"The investigation is not going to take a very short time. It is a concern but we from our side are doing all we can to make this process work."

According to Hofmeyr, 67 members of the NPA and the DSO, or Scorpions, resigned over the past year.

Political will

The elite unit, which was formed in 2001, is about to be disbanded and assimilated into a new team fighting high-level crime that will report not to the NPA but to the police.

The Scorpions helped to put Tony Yengeni and Schabir Shaik behind bars for corruption linked to the arms deal, and are involved in the politically fraught corruption case against African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma.

Scopa heard a special submission from Independent Democrats leader, Patricia de Lille who alleged that it was not lack of staff but a lack of political will stopping the NPA from prosecuting suspected arms deal fraudsters.

"The excuse of lack of capacity at this late stage is not true," she said.

"I think it is more a lack of political will and political interference. Now you are going to disappear. The DSO going is going to be the final excuse not to investigate."