Justice in SA ‘compromised’

2018-11-19 11:01
Former KwaZulu-Natal head of detectives and Scorpions investigator, Brigadier Clifford Marion.

Former KwaZulu-Natal head of detectives and Scorpions investigator, Brigadier Clifford Marion. (Nokuthula Ntuli)

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Former provincial head of detective services Brigadier Clifford Marion says state capture would never have happened if the Scorpions had not been disbanded in 2009.

The Pietermaritzburg resident said it broke his heart to look at the “disgraceful” state of law enforcement in the country, where most of those appointed in positions of power were more focused on covering up crime than bringing culprits to book.

“This country needs strong-willed leaders and people who do not compromise on law enforcement and the rule of law, people who don’t look at faces when they are investigating but look at the evidence.”

Marion started his career in law enforcement as a reservist in 1977, after matriculating from a Greytown high school, and rose to be one of the country’s most decorated detectives, investigating everything from factional fights between tribes in Msinga to political violence in the Midlands.

He said the crime rate could be reduced drastically if there was the will to do so in those in positions of power in law enforcement, government and politics.

“I’ve never, in my 40 years of service, on a single occasion compromised on anything. When it came to telling the truth I did that even when it was setting free the accused because that was based on evidence. But now we have law enforcement officers who are paid to manufacture evidence, and justice is being compromised and making South Africa the laughing stock of the world.”

He said there were some competent officers but they were blocked from doing their jobs.

“When are we going to get people who are going to bring back the glory and respect we had as a country when we had the Scorpions?”

He said a lot of truth was going to come out during the ongoing State Capture Commission but he was doubtful that the law enforcement agencies had the capacity to turn the evidence presented by witnesses into convictions.

Marion carries fond memories of his time as the regional head of the Scorpions from 1999 until the unit was disbanded in 2009. He was the most senior chief officer in the task team that was appointed to set up the first batch of Scorpions and had to interview people from across the country to join the then prestigious investigative team.

“We became a world-class organisation and I’m saying this with conviction and real sincerity because I’ve been there … We were one of the most feared and respected law enforcement agencies in the world,” he said.

He said things started turning sour for the Scorpions when they showed they would not compromise on enforcing the law and the likes of Schabir Shaik and former president Jacob Zuma were investigated.

He said the 2007 ANC national conference in Polokwane was the end for the unit as the ruling party resolved to disband it.

“I know that some of the people who went to that conference and voted to kill the Scorpions were drunk out of their minds. One drunk was nearly knocked over by a plane at the airstrip right here (in Pietermaritzburg) but they were given power to decide on the fate of law enforcement in South Africa.

“That’s why we have what we have today, a compromised South African Police Service, a compromised NPA and a compromised law enforcement where people are put in place so that they could cover up crime. You look at the Scorpions and then look at the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation now — it’s a disgrace.”

The Scorpions applied a unique investigative method called the “troika” which was a strategy of teaming up investigators, analysts and prosecutors from the start of an investigation to ensure that they had a solid case before going to trial.

“We would never have had state capture if the Scorpions were there because they would have acted immediately before the situation escalated to what it is today,” said Marion.

Marion rejoined the SAPS after the end of his tenure with the Scorpions and was appointed the provincial head of detectives in 2012.

He said he was forced to retire last year at the age of 60 even after he had made numerous submissions to his superiors in an application to serve until the age of 65.

“I could have stayed on for another five years contributing towards law enforcement in this country but I was told to leave.”

Fortunately he was appointed as an investigator for the Moerane Commission on political killings in February last year. He had to juggle both positions for a few months until he officially left his SAPS job in May.


Marion said there were dozens of retired police officers around the country whose experience and competencies could contribute towards crime fighting initiatives by working with those who were still on the force.

“There are many competent retired officers who are willing to continue serving their country but they are being sidelined.”

He said he was still prepared to serve in law enforcement to bring back South Africa’s glory of the Scorpions days.

The father-of-three said he would be available himself for programmes related to “imparting my specialised, professional and very mature knowledge through lecturing at specialised detective training centres and train young detectives”.

He said he would also be available to serve in the SAPS advisory council, which monitors the SAPS and advises the national commissioner on how to improve service delivery in the three main disciplines on law enforcement which are; crime detection, crime prevention and crime intelligence gathering.

“In our field of work you can take a book and read it which doesn’t mean anything but if someone like myself comes in and uses life experiences similar to those depicted in the book then it becomes easier to explain and we can explore several scenarios on how one can investigate that case and putting together evidence that will help secure a conviction.”


Brigadier Marion investigated hundreds of incidents of political violence including the so-called “Seven Day War”, which claimed close to 100 lives in the Midlands.

He also probed the much publicised 1995 Christmas Day massacres in Shobashobane, near Port Shepstone and the assassination of the United Democratic Movement leader Sifiso Nkabinde in Richmond, in 1999.

He has been part of several investigative task units that probed political killings for commissions such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and recently the Moerane Commission which recently submitted its report to Premier Willies Mchunu.

It all started in 1985 when Marion — who was a lieutenant stationed at the Edendale Halfway House at the time — was first assigned to investigate political violence.

“We come from a very dark past and the period between 1985 and 1993 was the worst (in terms of the violence) and the worst in the country was KwaZulu-Natal, more specifically right here in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands.”

In 1985, Marion said, the South African government and military intelligence had decided to “partner with all the so-called independent states” such as Qwaqwa and Bophuthatswana but KwaZulu-Natal was not given total independence. KZN was given the status of a homeland with the IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi as the prime minister.

“I later learned the reason they did that was to have a hold over the IFP and have, in KZN, the capacity to fight the ANC because the organisation was very strong in this province,” he said.

Marion said in 1986 the government transported hundreds of IFP recruits to receive military training in the Caprivi Strip, in Namibia.

He said some of the trainees would come back and infiltrate the ANC cells and hand over the information to those who put together dossiers which were given to the decision-makers in the provincial legislature, in Ulundi.

Those reports ended up with the military intelligence in Pretoria who would decide on which ANC activists should be eliminated.

Marion said 140 tons of arms and ammunition were delivered to the KZN legislature to be distributed throughout the indunas and IFP leaders in the province.

“They were all coming up with this defensive type of mode to say that because Nelson Mandela had declared an arms struggle and didn’t withdraw it, they were then defending themselves against the ANC. That was their argument all the time, even at the TRC.”

Ironically the secret programme to arm the IFP against the ANC was called “Operation Marion” and the Brigadier never knew that until after he was appointed by Mandela into the task team to investigate the political hit squads after the release of the report by the Goldstone Commission in 1994. The commission was appointed by former president F. W. de Klerk to investigate political violence and intimidation that took place between July 1991 and the first democratic election in 1994.

“When the file on Operation Marion was found during one of the raids the president [Mandela] called me, and [Sidney] Mafumadi (who was the Minister of Safety and Security at the time) also called to ask why my name was on the cover but I was just as shocked as they were to see it there,” said Marion.

He later found out through intelligence that it was called “Operation Marion” because the apartheid government utilised homelands as puppets in their fight against whoever they considered the enemy at that time.

“A marionette is sometimes referred to as a puppet so they dubbed the KZN operation as “marionette” but they had shortened it to “marion” because they were puppets being used by the government to fight off the ANC.”


Marion is now running his own forensic investigation firm where he probes matters related to fraud and other suspected criminal activities.

“I’ve got a few attorneys who hire me to do follow-up investigations. I take work that just sees me through the day because for 40 years my life was based around police work and investigations from 5 am until 7 pm or later than that, so it can’t change now. I’d go crazy if I just sat and did nothing.”

He has a postgraduate qualification in business management and has trained with some of the highly respected law enforcement agencies including the FBI, MI6 and Scotland Yard.

When Marion is not busy with his investigative work he enjoys playing squash and training young people who are interested in the sport.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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