South Africa‘s independent anti-crime unit to be part of police
Publicado el Oct. 23rd 2008
South Africa's Parliament was expected to approve new legislation Thursday to disband the independent crime-fighting set up to fight organised crime and corruption, the Scorpions. The new rules will and incorporate the Scorpions into the police force. The move comes despite widespread objections it would weaken the fight against crime in a country wracked by more than 50 murders a day as well as frequent bank heists, hijackings and violent theft. Opposition parties accuse the governing African National Congress of waging a political campaign against the unit. The Democratic Alliance has handed in a petition with 98,000 signatures and 8,000 written objections to the move, but to no avail. "We have established a sharper instrument to stab the heart of organized crime," he said. Vusi Pikoli, who was chief prosecutor until he was suspended for charging police chief Jackie Selebi with corruption, said it was a "sad day" for South Africa. He told Radio 702 there was no logic in disbanding a unit that was "feared by the criminals, loved by the people and respected by its peers." The Scorpions, officially called the Directorate of Special Operations and the equivalent of the FBI, was set up in 1999 to focus on organized crime. The unit has made nearly 2,000 arrests in the past six years and had a conviction rate of 90 percent, compared to the police's estimated 10 percent, according to the Democratic Alliance. The Scorpions unit has shaken South Africa's political landscape in the last few years, probing and arresting several prominent politicians, our correspondent says. Critics accused them of Hollywood-style swoops and "cherry-picking" cases, leaving the rest to the police. They also claimed many investigators were relics of the apartheid-era security forces. Among those pursued were ANC former chief whip Tony Yengeni and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of ex-President Nelson Mandela. The Scorpions also led an investigation against suspended police commissioner Jacki Selebi, who faces trial next year. The Scorpions were famous for the high profile probes. Targets included Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British prime minister, and a whole series of murky underworld figures and corrupt businessmen. They also investigated lawmakers accused of using official travel vouchers for their own personal use. But observers say the unit, formally known as the Directorate of Special Operations, pushed its luck too far when it pressed corruption, fraud and money laundering charges Mr Zuma in a massive arms deal scandal the ruling African National Congress party leader, Jacob Zuma, was charged witl, and Selebi was accused of a corrupt relationship with a convicted drug smuggler. Ironically, Selebi will now be in charge of the new unit. Those case was at the centre of a power struggle between Mr Zuma and Thabo Mbeki, with Mr Zuma's allies accusing Mr Mbeki's supporters of using the Scorpions to stop his rival gaining power. Mr Mbeki stepped down as president after Judge Chris Nicholson suggested that he had interfered in the case against Mr Zuma. The former president has strongly denied this and has appealed against the judge's ruling.