scorpions to disband

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

President Thabo Mbeki and cabinet will go ahead and place the Scorpions under the South African Police Service.

The two-day cabinet lekgotla starting today will mainly be used to discuss ways and means of ensuring that the Scorpions are disbanded by June this year.

This follows a decision a week ago by the ruling ANC lekgotla to disband the specialised unit and possibly have it fall under the SAPS.

It is a foregone conclusion that the only thing left is the mechanism that would spell an end to the Scorpions, amid strong objections from opposition parties.

Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko confirmed this yesterday in a briefing after the first cabinet meeting of the year ahead of today's cabinet lekgotla.

Maseko dismissed the "two centres of power" theory and emphasised that the only power rested in the hands of the ANC, led by its president Jacob Zuma.

"I may indicate that, in his remarks at the weekend, the president of the ruling party made it very clear that there is only one centre of power and that centre is the ruling party, but there will be measures put in place to make sure that those in government still remain leaders of the party - they may not be elected representatives of structures, but they remain leaders of the party."

Maseko said any important issues will be dealt with in meetings between Mbeki and Zuma.

Maseko's comments on the Scorpions come as opposition leaders have cried foul over the decision.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said he would seek legal advice to prevent the disbanding of the Scorpions and said it was an "abuse of power" when this country had other pressing matters to resolve.

The Khampepe Commission appointed in April 2005 by Mbeki to look at the mandate of the Scorpions, and where it should be situated, found no constitutional grounds for changing the unit's mandate and its location, but did suggest two lines of accountability.

Judge Sisi Khampepe also had to examine the relationship between the SAPS, intelligence agencies and the Scorpions.

Last year, on the recommendation of the National Security Council, cabinet decided to implement the commission's recommendations, which meant that prosecutors were to remain accountable to the director of public prosecutions, but their investigator colleagues would fall under the Ministry of Safety and Security. A coordinating committee would deal with operational issues.

The cabinet said the Scorpions would continue to handle high-priority crimes and deal with cases referred to it by the SAPS.

The Independent Complaints Directorate would have oversight over the Scorpions.

However, none of these recommendations have been implemented thus far.

DA leader Helen Zille said the Scorpions had become one of the most effective crime fighting agencies in the country. She said the only conclusion to be drawn is that the government was getting rid of Scorpions to "protect prominent ANC members from corruption charges".