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Mixed Reaction from Dissolution of South Africa’s Anti-Corruption Unit


In South Africa, the announcement in parliament Tuesday of a possible dissolution of the crime fighting police elite unit popularly known as “Scorpions” has reportedly been met with mixed reactions. Some political observers believe the announcement significantly weakens President Thabo Mbeki’s pledge to weed out corruption. Since its establishment in 1999, the Scorpions has reportedly scored successes against organized crime, despite an attack on its reputation because of the corruption investigation of the newly elected President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) Party Jacob Zuma.

But Mbeki’s critics claim the unit was set up to intimidate his political opponents. Rok Ajulu is a professor of international relations in South Africa. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Pretoria that the announcement of the Scorpions’ dissolution was expected.

“I must start by saying that that was generally expected. The decision to not disband the Scorpions, but move the Scorpions under the police was a decision that was initially taken at the ANC’s July conference, and this was confirmed at the Polokwane conference,” Ajulu noted.

He said the anti-corruption unit has often attracted criticisms as well as praise.

“So the debate has been on the one hand the white opposition has argued that the Scorpions have done a good job because the Scorpions have predominantly targeted the ANC leadership. It’s not only Jacob Zuma as the president of the ANC. Now you can go back to the Tony Yengeni’s case, and more recently the Selebi’s case. So on the one hand the argument has been that the scorpions has acted against corrupt people and that is why the ANC wants to get it out of the way. The ANC’s chaps on the other hand that there are two problems that the scorpions have been politicized,” he said.

Ajulu said the high profile corrupt cases investigated by the Scorpions would proceed through the legal process without any hindrance.

“Theoretically, nothing happens to the cases. They continue because the argument is that the Scorpions instead of being under the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) get shifted under the police. And they continue to do their work under the police rather than under the NPA. So theoretically if that one would assume that if that was the case there is nothing stopping them from continuing with the case that they have been doing,” Ajulu said.

He said some South Africans believe the Scorpions were settling political scores rather than fighting graft.

“That is where the debate is. The debate is precisely that rather than fight corruption the Scorpions shave been politicized either by the president on the one hand or within itself, given that it was comprising predominantly of the old forces of apartheid, and that it has not been fighting corruption that has actually been targeting the ANC for political reasons. So the fact that it is going to disappear from the other side that is from the ANC point of view does not change the fight about corruption. On the other hand the white opposition is arguing that if you disband or dissolve or whatever you fool with the Scorpions, you are completely stopping or blunting the edge of fighting corruption in this country,” he pointed out.