Scorpions On Target
But will Zuma saga blunt their sting? asks Khathu Mamaila The Scorpions were the pride of the ANC government until they turned their paralysing sting on Deputy President Jacob Zuma.
Since the formation of the elite police unit on September 1 1999, ANC leaders have generally sung the praises of the Scorpions, boasting about the unit's successes in combating crime.
They had good reason to be proud of the Scorpions under the leadership of Bulelani Ngcuka. The Scorpions, assisted by the National In-telligence Agency, infiltrated Pagad and stopped the terror campaign in Cape Town. The bomb blasts that made Cape Town one of the most dangerous areas in the country are history. Several Pagad leaders are serving jail terms for their involvement.
The Scorpions also recovered millions of rand in stolen goods. They smashed drug syndicates and, in some cases, confiscated drugs with a street value of R700 million and R400 million in two sep-arate cases in Johannesburg.
They have arrested and prosecuted gangsters and assisted in the discovery of arms caches.
Their success rate is estimated at 94%. The government and the ANC politicians were rightly proud of the Scorpions. But no more.
Some within the ruling party are no longer impressed with the Scorpions. They say the Scorpions, under Ngcuka, are bent on destroying Zuma. The theory is that the Scorpions are being used to rubbish Zuma, who, until the emergence of the allegations that he tried to solicit a R500 000 bribe, was seen as a strong contender for the position of ANC president and, by extension, the president of the country in 2009.
Kgalema Motlanthe, the ANC's highest-ranking official outside government, was strong in his criticism of the Scorpions' investigation of Zuma. The ANC secretary-general described the Scorpions' investigation as "dirty tricks of a special type".
Motlanthe said "no matter who and how long they investigated Zuma, they would not come up with anything".
But the image in the public domain is that Zuma's finances are chaotic and he cannot manage his financial affairs.
"They are going this route of digging up his finances... On hard evidence they cannot convict Zuma. At the same time, they don't want to go to court to afford him an opportunity to be cleared."
He said they wanted Zuma to have the matter hanging over his head. "By the time this matter is closed, they want a situation where nobody is left with any doubt about his incapacity to lead. That is the objective."
Motlanthe's conspiracy theory against Zuma tallies with the statement by Schabir Shaik that there are "enemy agents within our government".
But is there any substance to the notion that the Scorpions in general, and Ngcuka in particular, are being used to discredit Zuma? Is it possible for the Scorpions to be used to settle political scores?
Prof Sue Booysen, a political analyst at the University of Port Elizabeth, says while it is possible for state agents to be used to advance political agendas, there is no evidence that the probe against Zuma is such a case.
"They (Scorpions) are running a professional investi-gation. In fact, they have contributed to high level investor confidence. I think they had a basis to investigate Zuma. There is enough to prosecute, but not necessarily enough to secure a conviction," she adds.
The Scorpions should tell the nation why they decided not to charge Zuma despite having a prima facie case against him. Zuma says he wants an opportunity to defend himself in court.
"Any prosecutor will tell you that every case has to meet a basic standard for reasonable prospects of success. If this standard is not met, there is no logic in pressing charges. The same people who are saying we should charge him would be angry if we did not get a conviction, just as the public reacted with outrage to the acquittal of (Wouter) Bas-son," says Sipho Ngwema, Scorpions spokesman.
Another view is that if Zuma had been charged, he would have had to resign or President Thabo Mbeki could have been forced to order him to step down. And what if Zuma resigned and the case dragged on for more than a year, only for him to be acquitted? Would the Scorpions not be castigated for creating a national crisis?
"We did not consider that. Our decision not to charge the deputy president was not based on political considerations, but on the fact that our prospects of success were limited," says Ngwema.
He refutes allegations that the Scorpions are being used to discredit Zuma.
"We were given the task of investigating the arms deal by parliament. Now, those who suggest we are being used are implying that the various parties represented in parliament conspired and agreed to use us. Clearly there is no basis for this."
While some ANC leaders are clearly annoyed by the Scorpions, there are others, notably the Justice Minister, Penuel Maduna, who have thrown their weight behind the unit.
The question is whether the Zuma saga will blunt the sting of the Scorpions.
Why the Scorpions were formed:
There was evidence that there were certain complicated and highly organised crimes that needed special attention. It was apparent that the manner in which the SA Police Service was structured could not be effective in dealing with highly organised crimes. The idea was to establish a special unit which would be prosecution driven.
Profile of Scorpions members:
Graduates, mainly lawyers and specialists in commerce, were recruited. They were trained by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Scotland yard. In order to attract experience, the Scorpions also recruited from the old security agencies.
Some of the people subjected to a Scorpions investigation include:
Bulelani Ngcuka is the National Director of Public Prosecutions. Although his political head is Justice Minister Penuell Maduna, Ngcuka reports to parliament. He heads the National Prosecuting Authority, a structure which had four components:
The differences between the SAPS and the Scorpions
A police officer investigates a crime, arrests the suspect and hands the docket to the public prosecutor for decision.
The Scorpions work as a unit. They investigate trends, not necessarily specific crimes. They collect evidence and effect arrest. They also prosecute. Since members of the unit work under one roof, all relevant evidence needed for a successful prosecution is gathered before the docket is taken to court.
Police observe boundaries. They tend to focus on their areas. The Scorpions have a national approach.
While the SAPS traditionally attracted people who could not get jobs elsewhere, the Scorpions attract young professionals and pay them better salaries.
With acknowledgements to Khathu Mamaila and the Daily News.