Address by the President of the United Democratic Movement at the ISS Conference regarding the future of the Scorpions (10 April 2008) in Pretoria

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for the opportunity to address you on this critically important matter.

Let me state this categorically: the UDM is opposed to any attempt to undermine the effectiveness of the Scorpions, never mind the outright "dissolving" of the unit. In another context, where the entire criminal justice system was revamped and a host of steps taken to protect the efficiency and independence of the unit, we could talk about moving it or amending who it reports to. But in the current context any changes will in our view only serve to undermine the unit, which is patently the desire of those who are calling for the unit's dissolution or absorption into the SAPS.

In the same vein, we agree with calls for discipline among members of the Scorpions. However, any ill-discipline or unwarranted behaviour by one or two individuals cannot be used as an excuse to punish the entire unit.

The UDM has taken note of the more sober approach by President Mbeki, as opposed to the lynch-mob mentality from others calling for the disbandment of the unit by June. His call for a thorough review and revamp of the entire criminal justice system is a good suggestion. Such a process would require a working paper, perhaps even a White Paper, to consider all aspects of the criminal justice system. Such a process would take at the very least 18 months to ensure proper consideration of all the facts, and to allow the public and society at large an opportunity to contribute meaningfully in this critical debate. We have taken note of the widespread public disapproval of the proposal to disband the Scorpions, be it in radio talkshows, surveys, TV debates or newspaper letter columns. There is no doubt that we need to review the way our democratic system operates, since accountability and transparency aren't always achieved. Too often it seems that a certain elite will pursue their own agenda at the expense of the majority in this country, because the proportional representation system allows them to abuse their power. Perhaps the time for a mixed-system that incorporates constituencies with PR has arrived, so that those in power will feel obliged to consult wider.

In fact, as far as the Scorpions are concerned, some of the complaints about where the unit should be located, and that they are abusing their power, led to the appointment of the Khampepe Commission. And as far as we know the main recommendation was that the unit should be retained in its current form. What we need now, is for the Khampepe Commission Report to be released so that we can look at their findings in detail.

It is our considered view that three key features of the DSO have enabled its success. First, the investigative and prosecutorial functions are combined in a single law-enforcement unit, facilitating the collaboration from the ground up, that is indispensable to the combating of complex crime.

Second, the DSO's political, institutional and operational independence, which has allowed it to pursue public corruption in a manner that might have been otherwise impossible. Third, the fact that the DSO is a relatively small, well-trained and highly paid unit of specialists, many with interdisciplinary skills, has afforded a focus, cohesion and esprit de corp.

During January this year the UDM National Executive Committee discussed the future of the Scorpions at length and we resolved that we will do everything within our power to prevent this crime-fighting and corruption-busting unit from being disbanded by the ANC.

We agreed that we will strenuously oppose in Parliament any attempt to disband the Scorpions, or to absorb them into the SAPS, which as far as we are concerned is just a polite way of saying they will be dissolved.

We also asked for legal opinion regarding the possible judicial remedies we can pursue should we deem parliamentary processes insufficient to prevent the ANC's despicable scheme. The UDM NEC resolved that we will not hesitate to seek redress through the courts if it is necessary. As we did with the floor-crossing, when we took the matter to the highest court in the land and exposed the ANC's expediency. We warned then of the dire consequences and were subsequently proven right, as even the ANC now acknowledges the folly of floor-crossing. Similarly, we will not shy away from our duty as democrats and representatives of the voters to prevent the ANC's abuse of power in this thuggish attack upon the most successful crime-fighting weapon in the state's arsenal.

The history of the Scorpions is worth remembering. I recall the UDM Manifesto for the 1999 election, in which we suggested that the country needed an elite unit to investigate organised crime and corruption. We were therefore delighted when the ANC announced shortly thereafter the establishment of the Scorpions. It was a good idea.

In the envisaged future review of the criminal justice system, the achievement of better coordination of state resources should be a priority.
Perhaps we should be looking at creating an over-arching Ministry of Crime Prevention for the entire criminal justice system, covering the SAPS, Justice, Correctional Services, Home Affairs and Intelligence. Such a Ministry could help to better coordinate our crime-fighting resources and alleviate unnecessary tension between various security departments and units. Specialized units, such as the DSO, would be accountable to this Ministry.

Initial reservations from some of us about the ambit and accountability of the Scorpions were strongly defended by the ANC Government, who assured the nation that such a unit was absolutely necessary. Indeed as the Scorpions began to work on major problem areas such as organised crime, taxi violence and urban terrorism in the Western Cape, the detractors of the Scorpions disappeared. The nation watched with admiration and a growing sense of justice as a string of crime bosses were arrested and their assets forfeited to the state. It became clear that the concept of prosecution-led investigation was a massive success.

But it seems that the Scorpions' efficiency would be a problem for some. Starting as early as 2001 the Scorpions became the target of a political campaign from within the ANC. Tony Yengeni was the first to accuse the Scorpions of being 'too white' and harbouring political motives, when he was first questioned about his ill-gotten vehicles. He proclaimed innocence whilst launching his verbal attacks upon the Scorpions.

Of course later Mr Yengeni would plead guilty and his crime would be exposed to the public, but those who supported him and shared his disdain for the Scorpions, would conveniently forget this little detail. He became the first in a long line of ANC bigwigs to badmouth the Scorpions only to later be exposed for one crime or another. It is obvious that those with their fingers in the cookie-jar would fear an efficient investigative unit that showed no fear or favour, who weren't easily bribed, who didn't 'loose' dockets or failed to prosecute.

The NPA Director - and ultimate head of the Scorpions - was a trusted and respected member of the ANC. But Mr Ngcuka soon found himself the target of poisonous public and private speculation from ANC members who were stung by the Scorpions or knew that they had things to hide. Thus eventually Mo Shaik
- brother to Schabir - and Mac Maharaj - former Minister of Transport - conspired to have Mr Ngcuka 'exposed' as a traitor to the ANC who was an informant of the Apartheid regime. This tale was sold to Ranjeni Munusamy - then a journalist with the Sunday Times. When her editor refused to publish such a blatantly dubious story, she simply took the matter to another newspaper.

The country had to waste R13 million to pay for the Hefer Commission which soon exposed the unsubstantiated and unreasonable allegations. Later Mo Shaik's brother, Schabir, would be successfully prosecuted for a string of offences. Mac Maharaj it was later shown was the recipient of expensive gifts as Minister. And Ranjeni Munusamy would resurface as Jacob Zuma's spin-doctor.

Brett Kebble bankrolled the ANC Youth League and others within the ANC and made similar claims about the Scorpions. Later he would be exposed for massive fraud and the Scorpions' suspicions about him were vindicated.

The Minister of Safety & Security and the National Police Commissioner testified against the Scorpions before the Khampepe Commission. But guess what, the National Commissioner was exposed for having dubious relationships with druglords and organised criminals.

Most of the critics of the Scorpions have been prosecuted, face prosecution or are aligned to such people.

To the UDM it is a blatant conflict of interest that an ANC leadership riddled with people who have been prosecuted or face prosecution by the Scorpions, should now rule on the future of that unit. There is an obvious conflict of interest. For them to proceed with this course of action would be the grossest abuse of power. Not a single reason being advanced for the Scorpions to be moved to the SAPS hold any water; these are flimsy excuses to disguise a frighteningly undemocratic scheme. We will not hesitate to expose these lies.

Thank you

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