Publication: Mail and Guardian Issued: Date: 2001-03-09 Reporter: Jaspreet Kindra Editor:

Keep the Heath Unit, say Analysts

Publication  Mail & Guardian
Date 2001-03-09
Reporter Jaspreet Kindra
Web Link

Crime analysts have slammed the South African Police Service (SAPS) National Commissioner Jackie Selebi’s argument that the Heath unit be disbanded. 

Selebi made this suggestion in a submission to the justice and constitutional development portfolio committee on Monday. The committee was discussing the Special Investigation Units and Special Tribunals Amendment Bill. 

Lala Camerer; a senior researcher on organised crime and corruption at the Institute for Security Studies, said the police force did not have the capacity to deal with the criminal aspects of corruption cases. Johnny Steinberg from the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation says the SAPS does not have the capacity to deal with white-collar crime, even if members from the Heath unit were absorbed into the SAPS. 

The legislation was introduced by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Penuell Maduna in Parliament last month to facilitate the removal of Judge Willem Heath as head of the unit. The legislation is in compliance with the Constitutional Court ruling last year which held that a unit headed by a judge is unconstitutional as it compromises the independence of the judiciary. 

Camerer said Selebi seemed to be expressing support for the African National Congress’s line on the investigation into the R43-billion arms procurement package, saying that existing structures were enough to conduct the probe. 

“The cases involving corruption are complicated and required specialised skills. There was much excitement when one learnt that such skills would be located under a special directorate dealing with corruption established within the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions – but one has heard very little from this unit and I wonder whether it still exists?” Camerer asked. 

“The directorate can only investigate high-priority cases. Who will then be mandated to investigate ordinary cases of corruption?” 

In his submission Selebi also said: “Police personnel are drawn from their investigation tasks into the [Heath] unit, which focuses on civil procedures, resulting in loss of personnel to the SAPS.” 

Steinberg said this was more problematic for him as Selebi seemed to be insinuating that “civil law is inappropriate to fight crime”. 

With acknowledgement to Jaspreet Kindra and the Mail & Guardian.