Publication: City Press Issued: Date: 2003-09-20 Reporter: Mary de Haas

Scorpions Should Be Disbanded



City Press

Date 2003-09-20


Mary de Haas

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I do understand the concerns of Josep Mhlongo (CP 31/8/03) on the apparent need for the Scorpions, because of the shortcomings of the police.

However, it is by no means clear whether the conviction record of the Scorpions (many of whose members are apartheid era justice and police personnel) is any better than that of the police.

What I do know is the intervention of the Scorpions in KwaZulu-Natal had a very negative impact on policing, and on bringing to justice the forces behind the political violence. The period to which Mhlongo refers, 1996 to 1998, saw units headed by black police members make real progress in dealing with political violence. In the north coast areas of Mandini and Mtubatuba, violence levels dropped as a result of investigations by a small team headed by Superintendent Mandla Vilakazi, whose unit secured a number of high court convictions. But as a result of interference by the Scorpions, dockets were removed from Vilakazi's unit, and at least one key prosecution was halted.

In Richmond the first breakthroughs resulted from investigations by units headed by Superintendent Sipho Mbele. By the latter part of 1998, violence levels had dropped after Mbele's members had arrested and held without bail alleged key hitmen Mbongoleni Mtolo and Themba Mchunu.

It was at that critical point that the Scorpions intervened, leading to the removal of Mbele and his units. Mtolo and Mchunu were released on bail, and Mtolo was shot dead at the scene of a massacre of eleven people, which followed the assassination of Sifiso Nkabinde.

Interference by the Scorpions went even further. Just as the most senior black detective in KwaZulu-Natal was about to be appointed as head detective in the province, he and Mbele were charged by the KZN Scorpions head, Advocate Macadam, in connection with the Richmond investigations. The two highly respected police members were exonerated and the charges were found to be without any substance. In passing judgment, the senior presiding magistrate queried whether Macadam should not have been charged with defeating the ends of justice.

The province lost its most competent senior black detective as he was promoted to a high position elsewhere. While a few foot soldiers were convicted as a result of the Scorpions' investigations in Richmond (the major groundwork having been done by Mbele's units), the forces behind the violence were never identified and neutralised, leaving them free to continue their nefarious work if they wished.

The Scorpions should be disbanded and their investigators reintegrated into the SA Police Service, where they belong.

With acknowledgements to Mary de Haas and the City Press.