The head of South Africa’s elite crime fighting union, the Scorpions, has been appointed to a post at the World Bank. Leonard McCarthy will be in charge of the bank’s anti-corruption department, which investigates allegations of fraud and corruption in development projects.
His appointment, however, comes at a time when there’s debate over whether the Scorpions should be disbanded. VOA reporter Delia Robertson is following the story. From Johannesburg, she spoke to Joe De Capua about Leonard McCarthy.
“He has headed up the investigative arm of South Africa’s body called the Scorpions or the Directorate of Special Operations. And that is the body that has worked under the National Prosecuting Authority to counter serious crimes of corruption and so on. Many analysts believe that under his leadership the Scorpions have done well, that they have achieved quite a lot. But at the same time there have been concerns expressed about the fact that there has been a lack of cooperation with police and things of that nature,” she says.
The ruling ANC Party and opposition parties disagree on whether the unit should be disbanded. “The ANC at its national conference…last December resolved that the Scorpions should be disbanded or dissolved and absorbed into the South African police. But it’s unclear exactly how far that process is at the moment. There have been efforts by opposition parties and others to persuade the ANC not to disband the Scorpions, but I think it is still the intention of the party to do so,” Robertson says.
The debate also comes at a time when ANC leader and expected presidential candidate Jacob Zuma is facing a corruption trial. Asked whether there’s a link, Robertson says, “Some people have said that there’s a direct link, that the ANC wants the Scorpions disbanded because it is targeting people who are high placed or people with influence, who are involved in corrupt practices. The ANC says that the Scorpions have not functioned well because they’re not within the ambit of the South African police…. But it’s a debate that I think is going to continue for quite some time to come because the ANC is determined I think to get its way on this matter.”
As for the president’s stance on the matter, she says, “President Mbeki did say there should be a body or an organization that deals with serious crimes of corruption and so on in order to protect the democracy. However, he conceded this may be possible for this body to work within the South African police. People who don’t agree with that say that the very reasons for setting up the Scorpions was because there’s such a lack of ability in the South African police services, lack of skills. There have been serious corruption cases within the police…. The national commissioner is awaiting charges, a case that could be brought against him on corruption. And so they’re concerned that, in fact, if you brought the special investigating people into the police, that they would have the sting removed from them.”