Monday, August 11, 2008

Where crime is a way of life

Where crime is a way of life
Aug 08 2008 11:37

The African National Congress (ANC) has defended its stance on the disbanding of the Scorpions, saying the unit was guilty of "serious violations of the Constitution and the rule of law".

ANC national executive committee member Siphiwe Nyanda maintains that the Scorpions used operatives who had not obtained appropriate security clearances and, as such, compromised the security interests of South Africa and its citizens.

He also this week accused the Scorpions of "media-driven operations" and said that despite a judge's finding that the unit had exceeded its legal mandate, there has been a "clamour" that it be allowed to continue.

While Nyanda may have a point, is it really necessary to pack up the whole unit? Could safeguards not be put in place to address the ANC's concerns? Or is it a matter of public perception -- we're told this is our one supremely powerful weapon against high-profile criminals, and now we're being asked to accept that the country can do without it.

The Scorpions could also perhaps have dealt more diplomatically with some of their high-profile cases, so avoiding the criticism of "Hollywood-style" raids.

By contrast, the Democratic Alliance's Dianne Kohler-Barnard said the disbandment was a political decision, "taken by the ruling party to protect its leaders from any further criminal investigations". She said it was "absolute madness to even consider destroying the one unit that was a shining light in a sea of darkness".

The unit was launched with much fanfare on January 12 2001. This was our super-unit with FBI-like powers, and, we were told, it was going to take down powerful criminals beyond the reach of ordinary law enforcement agencies. Crucially, it combined prosecutors with special investigators, greatly improving the chances for successful prosecution.

Now Parliament is holding public hearings into the matter.

Justice committee chairperson Yunus Carrim is on record as saying: "If through these public hearings we establish that the overwhelming majority of South Africans want the Scorpions retained, we will take it seriously."

However, it was Carrim who said the disbandment was in the interests of improving the fight against crime and that "populism" would not be allowed to change things.

Business Day quoted him as saying that the ruling party was proud of the way in which it had stood by principle on the issues of the death penalty, abortion and same-sex marriages. He then tried to link these issues to the scrapping of the unit by saying that if public opinion had held sway in these three instances, they would not be part of South African law.

What the ANC wants, it gets, and the unit is all but dead in the water. A few high-profile busts, it probably reasons, and the public's opinion will be assuaged. This may all be very well, but South Africans are keenly attuned to crime, being, as it is, a way of life, and it seems a pity that we're losing the one unit that seemed to be securing successful prosecutions.

Team SA
There are few positive stories in the news at present, but the Olympics still showcase the best of human endeavour. We wish the South African Olympic team all the best; a gold medal or two would certainly help us forget about the economic and political turmoil, even if only for a short while. Bheki Ntshalintshali and Sdumo Dlamini
Cosatu's deputy general secretary and president used the union federation's nationwide strike to attack the judiciary, alluding to judges being unreliable and under the influence of alcohol. Judges are human, sure, but these comments were simply another pro-Zuma volley, and surely uncalled for.

Most-read stories

July 31 to August 6

1. Mbeki 'paid R30m arms-deal bribe'
Despite a pre-emptive strike by President Thabo Mbeki's staff to discredit it, the Sunday Times has published explosive allegations that Mbeki was paid R30-million by a German shipbuilding company to guarantee it would receive a submarine contract in South Africa's multibillion-rand arms deal.

2. Tsvangirai hopes for 'honourable exit' for Mugabe
Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday he hoped talks aimed at resolving the country's political crisis would give President Robert Mugabe an "honourable exit".

3. Mugabe 'told to stay away' from Games opening
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics because he was told by China's Communist Party to stay away, the Sydney Morning Herald daily reported on Tuesday.

4. How Robben Island was robbed
Gross mismanagement, incompetence, fraud and outright theft are bleeding Robben Island dry, according to a forensic audit of the world heritage site completed this year.

5. Presidency's guns fire at Sunday Times
The Presidency on Sunday strongly rejected renewed allegations of arms-deal corruption involving President Thabo Mbeki, and denied he received any bribes from contractors.

6. Setback for Zuma after court ruling
South Africa's highest court on Thursday ruled against African National Congress (ANC) leader Jacob Zuma in his attempt to stop seized evidence being used against him in a corruption trial.

7. Power-sharing deal 'not far off' in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's ruling party and the opposition are close to a power-sharing deal that would turn Robert Mugabe into a ceremonial president, a South African newspaper reported on Tuesday.

8. Court's giant blow to Zuma
The Constitutional Court has removed the biggest remaining legal obstacle to the corruption and fraud trial of ANC president Jacob Zuma and rejected allegations of bias against it following its formal complaint against Cape Judge President John Hlophe.

9. Draft deal sees ceremonial role for Mugabe
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will run the country under a mooted draft agreement while President Robert Mugabe will become ceremonial president, a South African newspaper reported on Wednesday.

10. Court starts hearing Zuma argument
The Pietermaritzburg High Court started hearing argument on Monday on why the corruption case against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma should be dropped.


Why will criminals ever disband crime and take away their rights to "redistribution of wealth?"

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