There has been a significant drop in new corruption cases by the
police since the Scorpions were closed down, according to a report
from the influential Organisation of Economic Cooperation and
The OECD this week slammed South Africa's corruption-fighting
efforts, expressing concern about the ability of the Hawks to take
over the Scorpions' functions.
The Scorpions were closed down early last year after the ANC decided
at its December 2007 national conference in Polokwane that members
of the elite unite should be incorporated into the South African
On Monday the OECD released its report on South Africa's ability to
curb corruption, concluding that the country should improve on its
investigation and prosecution of bribery in international business
In July last year the Hawks, a police unit that replaced the
Scorpions, was launched and 288 cases were handed over for
In the past 12 months the Hawks unit -- effectively an amalgamation
of the police's organised crime and commercial branches -- has
focused more on violent and drug-related crimes than on corruption.
The unit has been quiet about high-profile corruption cases
transferred to it from the Scorpions, including the
According to the OECD's report, the organisation was assured by
South Africa that no investigations had been dropped when the
Scorpions unit was disbanded and that the Hawks unit was equipped to
deal with the outstanding cases.
But the organisation expressed concern about cooperation between
investigators and prosecutors now that they are no longer based in
the same unit.
The Scorpions' "troika" model of investigation, in which
investigators, prosecutors and analysts worked together on cases,
won international praise but it was done away with when the unit was
The Scorpions' biggest critics, including the ANC, disgraced former
police boss Jackie Selebi and Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda,
argued that that method of investigation was problematic and
prosecutors should at all times be acting independently when going
Standard international practice
But the OECD's report confirms that a model in which prosecutors
are involved in complex graft investigations from the outset is
standard international practice.
"The [OECD's] lead examiners ... remain concerned about the level of
interaction between investigators and prosecutors and the need for
oversight, and that the cooperation demonstrated between such
personnel, such as it existed under the DSO [the Scorpions], has
been lost with the restructuring of law enforcement. This issue
should continue to be monitored," the report reads.
According to it, South Africa is investigating only four cases of
alleged bribery involving local officials and foreign companies. It
"remains concerned" about the resources dedicated by South Africa to
fighting foreign bribery and the level of skills available in the
police and national prosecuting authority (NPA).
Ironically, the NPA's specialised commercial crimes unit, which is
specifically tasked with dealing with complex matters of bribery and
fraud, impressed the OECD.
Earlier this year Menzi Simelane, the NPA boss, tried to disband the
unit, but he was stopped by Jeff Radebe, the justice minister, after
a public outcry.
The report further criticises the police for not following up on
media reports about alleged bribery.
Although police crime intelligence monitors media reports, "allegations
of foreign bribery have not served as a basis for opening an
... the [OECD] is concerned that despite the
existence of such publicly available allegations concerning foreign
bribery cases ... neither the SAPS
nor the NPA took the initiative to look into these allegations at an
The OECD also criticises South Africa for its lax response to
international requests for mutual legal assistance and suggests that
safeguards to ensure the independence of investigative and
prosecutorial powers should be strengthened.
Simelane came under fire when he was
justice director general for deflecting requests by German
prosecutors for assistance in their investigation of the arms deal.
With acknowledgements to
Adriaan Basson and Mail and Guardian.
But this is just what they wanted.
*1 But now there's one.