THE SCORPIONS : TRIAL BY INNUENDO – AND THE MEDIA?
Like a bolt out of the blue, in June 1999, SAPS Director Eric Nkabinde’s planned trip to the USA, to attend a specialised training course, was cancelled at the eleventh hour, causing great inconvenience. The SAPS had received a letter from Advocate Chris Macadam, then head of the newly-formed Scorpions in KwaZulu-Natal, informing them that Nkabinde, the most senior black detective in the province, was about to be arrested. This letter was the first that Nkabinde had heard that he was under investigation, and for several months his lawyer attempted to obtain details. He was unsuccessful: Although he was told, verbally, that there were no charges, nothing was put in writing. At the same time, in August 1999, defamatory articles appeared in two newspapers alleging that police members, including Nkabinde, were under investigation. On the day these articles appeared, MacAdam issued a signed, joint statement with police PRO officer Bala Naidoo claiming that the reports were ‘blatant’ lies – and contradicting the contents of the June letter to police management. Finally, at the end of November 1999, as he was about to be appointed to the key position of head of detectives in KZN, charges were brought against Nkabinde, and Captain Mbele, whose team had made stunning breakthroughs in the Richmond violence. These charges related to their alleged handling of the Richmond investigations. Almost immediately counsel for the accused was obliged to place on record apparent attempts to obstruct the cause of justice. The fact that the case against these two police members was heard, and finalised, in June 2000 was due to the efforts and perseverance of legal counsel for the accused, since the Scorpions used various tactics to attempt to delay its finalisation – which was hardly surprising: Under cross-examination, Macadam conceded that there was no substance in any of the charges. In the Judgment, the two accused were totally exonerated, Mbele was praised for the quality of his Richmond investigations, and the presiding senior magistrate queried whether it was not Macadam who should have been charged for defeating the ends of justice. This trial, which had almost ruined the careers of two distinguished and competent police members, showed the Scorpions to be guilty of improper, unethical and unlawful conduct, at huge State expense.
Under cross examination during the trial, Macadam conceded that the laying of charges, and media publicity surrounding them, were effective in imputing in the minds of the general public the guilt of those so charged, even if they were subsequently found innocent.
In other words, the use of trial by media has been integral to the tactics used by the Scorpions since their inception. It is unfortunate that the same tactics, i.e. a selective use of the media rather than normal criminal investigative procedures, as laid down in the Criminal Procedure Act, are now being used on politicians – not because they should not be investigated (of course they should, if there are grounds for believing they have engaged in criminal activities) but because any attempt now to ask important questions about the composition, modus operandi and achievements of this unit are likely to be interpreted as intending to protect them. Let it be made perfectly clear that
- The Natal Monitor has repeatedly criticised the Scorpions and has been calling for over three years – both in public statements and correspondence with Ministers and (ironically) the Presidency – for a critical re-appraisal of its role in the criminal justice system. In fact, it seems to have been the only body with the temerity to challenge them.
- The Natal Monitor holds no brief for Deputy President Jacob Zuma or any other politician, but believes that persons accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty and should be subject to acceptable just and fair procedures which include being charged, if there is sufficient evidence, and appearing in court before being subject to what can be scurrilous media speculations. In other words, the Scorpions’ cavalier approach to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act is completely unacceptable, regardless of the status of the accused.
What is disturbing is the invariable and uncritical use of the term ‘elite’ in references to this unit, without any penetrating questions being asked about whether it actually deserves the accolades heaped upon it. Who are the Scorpions, and what exactly have they achieved that their praises should be sung so loudly? Are the emperors’ clothes really as splendid as the besotted media and general public, seem to think?
THE SCORPIONS : OLD WINE IN NEW WINESKINS?
The Directorate of Special Operations, known as the Scorpions, operates in terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Act of 1998 and its 2000 amendment, which make provision for the establishment of Directorates, including one with a ‘limited investigative capacity’ to investigate serious criminal activities conducted in an ‘organised’ manner [defined in Sec 7(1)(b)] and, if warranted, instigate criminal proceedings. The Investigating Directorate operates under the control and directions of the office of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), and is responsible to a ministerial co-ordinating committee (Section 31). The unit possesses awesome powers of search and seizure, and may conduct investigations at which proceedings take place in camera. In terms of Section 28, wide powers are given to individual investigating directors, or persons so designated, including insofar as determining procedures followed at investigations, and recordings thereof, are concerned.
Modelled on America’s FBI, recruits began training in America (the first non-Americans allowed to access its training programme) and Scotland Yard in England in 2000. Well before then, however – by the end of 1998 – employees of the Department of Justice, and police members seconded from the SAPS, started work, including in KwaZulu-Natal. The salaries paid to Scorpions investigators, as opposed to the police, have remained a bone of contention : In 2002 posts for senior investigators were advertised at R190 000, 00 plus benefits – a far higher salary than that of police superintendents with many years of experience, in charge of units with extremely heavy work loads in terms of dockets carried.
Despite the ‘new’ image the Scorpions project, most of the unit’s 500 members who had been recruited country-wide by October 2000 were reportedly drawn from the ranks of the police. For an ‘elite’, well-resourced unit, there has been a disappointing lack of transparency around the appointment of members, and allegations of nepotism and favouritism surfaced soon after its formation. During January 2000, Pietermaritzburg-based members admitted that relatives had been employed, in some cases without posts even being advertised. Three months later the unit was being accused, by Department of Justice officials, of ‘lawlessness’ in, among other things, appointing people in jobs that had not been approved and provided for in the department’s budget (it was also accused of ignoring procedures for procurement, overstepping the bounds of its authority, and failing to promote affirmative action). Natal Monitor has attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain clarity in regard to appointments to the unit. In responding to a series of relevant questions posed in a letter dated 22 September 2000, addressed to National Director of Public Prosecutions Ngcuka, the curt reply of his then deputy, Advocate Sonn’s was ‘We would appreciate any information which would assist us in creating a trusted and clean organisation’. A follow up letter pointing out that questions had not been answered, and elaborating on the issues needing to be addressed, received no response whatsoever. It was hardly surprising, then, to learn, in June 2003, that whole human resources staff of the National Prosecuting Authority had been suspended pending an investigation into staff appointments. Why this investigation should only cover appointments during the preceding two year period, i.e. since 2001, given that allegations of nepotism had surfaced by the beginning of 2000, is not clear.
In terms of the legislation (Section 19B) special investigators have to be screened by the National Intelligence Agency. Evidence was heard, at the Nkabinde and Mbele trial, of NIA involvement in the Richmond violence – and of NIA obstruction of police investigations conducted by Mbele’s team in Richmond. At that time (2000) – the Scorpions were sharing offices with the selfsame National Intelligence Agency. How credible can security ‘clearances’ from such sources be? According to a press report, two members of the Pietermaritzburg-based unit had criminal convictions, one of them for ‘tubing’ a suspect in 1996. What type of ‘clearance’ fails to prevent criminals from joining an ‘elite’ unit?
Nor is it evident what competencies were sought in selecting staff. The head of investigations in KZN, for example, was deemed a suitable appointee (and it is not clear whether his post was ever advertised) despite his having been the subject of stinging criticism for his ‘cutting and pasting’ method of statement- taking by the Hon Judge Hugo in the Magnus Malan et al case. Even more puzzling is the fact that Advocate Macadam continues to occupy a pivotal position, despite the opprobrium arising from what appears to have been a malicious prosecution of Nkabinde and Mbele, as well as his disastrous intervention in the Richmond investigations. Calls for an enquiry into his behaviour were ignored by his superiors. It thus seems extraordinary that he now reportedly heads the Scorpions team dealing with TRC ‘unfinished business’ – especially given his questionable judgment in appointing former apartheid state security police members (names known) to manage the Witness Protection programmes run by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Department of Justice.
What is particularly disconcerting is that the elites of the most repressive arm of the apartheid state – its security police members – appear well represented in the ranks of the Scorpions. The crucial role played by this elite police unit in fomenting violence, including in collaboration with Vlakplaas operatives, cannot be overemphasised. To make matters worse, few approached the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Reports from extremely credible sources alleged, in 1994, that certain security police members were meeting, secretly, and planning destabilisation strategies against a non-racial government they did not support. It is bad enough that so many of these apartheid-era elites are now in crucial positions in the SAPS – but it is totally unacceptable that they should have been recruited into the Scorpions.
- How many apartheid security police are there in the Scorpions, who are they, and which positions do they occupy? Why are they employed in a unit which projects a ‘new South Africa’ image?
The disregard for the rule of law which characterised apartheid security force operations has been a feature of some of the more controversial operations carried out by the Scorpions :
- In October 1999 members of the unit, together with members of Public Order Policing, raided the home of former Robben Islander Malusi Qunene, looking for his brother Bongani. Armed with automatic weapons, and without a search warrant, they reportedly kicked open the door of the house of Qunene’s frail 77 year old grandmother. Scorpions spokesperson Sipho Ngwema reportedly confirmed that the raid had taken place, and apologised to the family, saying that someone had got the address wrong
- In October 2000 the Scorpions raided the premises of several news organisations, including Reuters and Associated Press, in search of video material on, among other things, the August 1996 killing of Pagad member Rashid Staggie. A newspaper editorial described the raid – which, ironically, took place on Media Freedom Day – as the ‘Worst attack on press freedom since 1994’
- In January 2000 Advocate Macadam allegedly called up a large, heavily armed police SWOT team to enter the Pietermaritzburg home of magistrate and former Scorpions member Ashwin Singh, without a warrant, to seize a tape recording of a discussion concerning the charges which were brought against Nkabinde and Mbele. The recorded conversation apparently showed MacAdam’s disrespect for his superiors, which is being communicated to their juniors, and the construction of charges against senior police officers which MacAdam appears to acknowledge, were lacking in any substance. During this raid, then, evidence which, if proven genuine, could have been used against the Scorpions was seized by them.
THE SCORPIONS AND POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN KWAZULU-NATAL
One of the enduring myths about the Scorpions is that the unit brought peace to violence-wracked KwaZulu-Natal. That is not true. In retrospect, the unit’s intervention in KZN, at that particular point in time (late 1998) is extremely puzzling. Apart from earlier sporadic police successes (e.g. the successful prosecutions of IFP official Samuel Jamile, the Trust Feed killers, and the Esikhawini hit squads) the period 1995 – 1998 saw the beginning of the first real progress towards dealing with the forces behind political violence, in areas such as Mandini, Mtubatuba and Richmond. Had there not been unwarranted interference, the situation with regard to police investigations in KZN could only have improved with the replacement of Commissioner Fivas with a democratic government appointee, Commissioner Selebi,in 1999.
At the time of Scorpion intervention, divisions within the police, between those working to transform the service and ‘Old guard’ reactionaries was painfully obvious. While it was presumably not their intention, the actions of the Scorpions served to neutralise progressive forces and strengthen the hand of the Old Guard.
Scorpion interventions in the violence were on two fronts : Firstly, direct engagement with a functionary of the apartheidState, and secondly with manifestations of violence rooted in apartheid state-sponsored violence. It could be argued that, had this intervention been properly handled, those responsible for the violence would have been exposed and neutralised. That opportunity was lost, and, at best, on a few foot soldiers were identified and convicted. The forces behind the violence remain at large, free to continue their nefarious work if they so wish.
The roots of the violence : the apartheid state and its functionaries
The work of the Goldstone and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, as well as court cases (Trust feed, KwaZulu Police hitsquads, and the Magnus Malan et al trials), has shown how the apartheid state and its security apparatus (including the bantustan police force) orchestrated and sustained what was misleadingly termed ‘black on black’ violence in KZN, in which thousands of people died.
As indicated, the security police and those they handled played a pivotal role in this violence, including through their placement in Bantustan policing structures, and infiltration into political organisations (including liberation movements). One such security policeman, and erstwhile IFP official, was Phillip Powell, whose name is associated, among other things, with the training of IFP self-protection members at the northern KZN Mlaba camp in 1994. According to a secret memorandum handed to the TRC, allegedly presented to the KwaZulu cabinet, this training was intended to develop, rapidly and at minimal expense, the military capacity of the Bantustan government. Trainees skilled in counter-insurgency, and of unquestioned loyalty to the KwaZulu government, were to be appointed as ‘assistant constables’. Five operational bases from which these trainees would run their ‘specialised mission’ were mooted – as was the possibility of their using ‘ISU [police Internal Stability Unit] bases and facilities’. It was envisaged that the unit ‘could form the core of a future KwaZulu Defence Force’.
The memorandum proposed that, in addition to siphoning weapons and resources from the KwaZulu police and KwaZulu government, a further large quantity of weapons be acquired. By then at least 70 tons of such weapons, in six truck loads, had already found their way to KZN from Vlakplaas, in October 1993. Among these weapons were hand grenades, RPG-7 rockets, mortars, anti-personnel mines and RPG rocket launchers – ‘enough to start a civil war’ as one of the men tasked with overseeing the transport of the weapons put it. A Goldstone Commission Enquiry revealed that Powell had also tried to obtain a thousand semi-automatic LM4 rifles from Escom, but the consignment had been stopped.
Shortly before South Africa’s second democratic elections in 1999 – in a context of widespread violence and allegations of continued paramilitary training – a team of investigators under the office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) unearthed a large cache of weapons at a bunker at Nquthu, northern KZN. Reports claimed that Phillip Powell had provided information about the weapons, although Powell himself is quoted as saying the information was supplied by a ‘third party’.
A controlled explosion was used to destroy the cache, which accounted for, at most, only two of the Vlakplaas truckloads, with a figure of 64 tons of weapons said to be still outstanding. According to a list provided by a daily newspaper the cache included 8 RPG7s and 39 anti-tank mines; there were reportedly 182 RPG-7 rockets and 700 anti-tank mines in the Vlakplaas consignment alone.
There were claims that Phillip Powell had received amnesty for this disclosure, but this claim was refuted by the office of the DPP, and there was talk of his being tried for treason. While warning warlords that their time was up, Ngcuka is also quoted as saying (in May 1999) that his office would not arrest Powell ‘as a scapegoat’, but wanted to find other conspirators behind the acquisition of the weapons’. Four years later, it seems, those conspirators have still not been found. By August 2001 the Scorpions had changed their mind about arresting Powell – who had by then left the country – and a warrant had been issued.
Advocate Macadam had reportedly been assigned to investigate the vast quantities of weapons of war – which are presumably, in 2003, still in KwaZulu-Natal. Why have they not been found?
The Scorpions foray into violence investigations : 1998-2000
Following the expulsion from the ANC of Sifiso Nkabinde in April 1997, amidst allegations that he was a registered security police informer, long simmering tensions erupted into violence in Richmond leaving at least 45 people dead in the space of six months. There was a brief lull following the arrest of Nkabinde on charges of murder but, following his acquittal in May 1998, violence levels again soared leaving another fifty people dead in the space of two months. Police members from different parts of the province were recruited to work in different teams, headed by a credible and experienced detective, Captain Sipho Mbele, who reported to Director Nkabinde. Within weeks suspects, including alleged key hit man Mbongoleni Mtolo, had been arrested in connection with eleven cases, and a period of relative calm returned to the area. Despite – or perhaps because of – these successes, concerted (and unsuccessful) efforts were being made by certain members of police management to wrest control of the investigations from Mbele’s members. Towards the end of 1998 Advocate Chris Macadam was appointed, by the National Director of Public Prosecutions, to oversee investigations into political killings in KwaZulu-Natal. It immediately became evident that, instead of confining himself to his prosecutorial role, Macadam was interfering unduly in policing work, which was to result, by early 1999, in the removal of Captain Mbele and his members. Against a background of well-founded allegations of collusion between Sifiso Nkabinde and members of the SAPS, and the involvement of some police members in cover-ups, Mbele and Co were replaced by other police members, some of whom of extremely dubious repute. One of the first actions taken by Macadam was to traumatise credible witnesses by subjecting them to the unheard of procedure (for witnesses)of lie-detector tests (which cannot prove whether a person is telling the truth or lying) and releasing Mbongoleni Mtolo on bail, Another accused hit man, Themba Mchunu, was also granted bail, despite his having been on the run from police for weeks before his being apprehended. In January 1999 Sifiso Nkabinde was assassinated, eleven people died after a massacre at the Ndabazitha home, and Mtolo was shot dead at the massacre scene. Mchunu subsequently died. Towards the end of 2000, some time after the main named conspirators in the Tavern Massacre case had died, the Scorpions secured the convictions of three men who, the court found, had made confessions to state witnesses, two of whom were undercover agents (see Natal Monitor ‘Consider your Verdict’).
What has been totally obscured in coverage of Richmond investigations by the Scorpions is the important work done by units under the command of Captain Mbele, who had made considerable progress in at least nineteen cases (sixteen of them murder) before their summary expulsion from the area. No response was ever received to two letters (24 November 1999 and 15 November 2000) to the National Director of Public Prosecutions requesting a progress report on these cases.
After his acquittal and exoneration, Director Nkabinde was promoted out of the province, to head policing in Mpumalanga province. His departure was a devastating blow to the transformation of the detective service, since he had been the only member of management promoting the cause of competent black police members. As colleague Mbele put it, when approached by a City Press journalist ‘People had confidence in him; his office was always full of people’. The position of head of detectives, denied him by the crucially-timed prosecution by the Scorpions, was taken by a man with a track record of obstructing, and trying to halt, the work of competent black members and their units.
Scorpions’ interference in the work being done by credible detectives was not confined to Richmond. A team headed by Supt Mandla Vilakazi had secured a number of high court convictions for political violence in the Mandini and Mtubatuba areas in the 1995-1998 period. They had also arrested a number of alleged murderers for a pre-election massacre at Paulpietersburg in March 1994 – ‘The State versus B Z Khalishwayo and 13 others, Paulpietersburg CAS 110/03/94). Over the years members of the unit had worked closely and successfully with certain members of staff in the office of the DPP in Pietermaritzburg. For some unknown reason the case was transferred to Advocate Macadam, soon after the launch of the Scorpions. Despite progress made in the case, and without any reason being given, charges were ‘provisionally’ withdrawn against the accused. The investigating officer alleged that witnesses had been intimidated. The main accused, B Z Khalishwayo, was subsequently murdered.
Political violence in the KwaMbonambi area, between Richards Bay and Mtubatuba, had long been accompanied by allegations of police involvement, especially on the part of certain members of Mtubatuba-based Public Order Policing (formerly Internal Stability Unit; co-incidentally, it was ISU bases which were named in Phillip Powell’s secret memorandum), who were also allegedly linked to violence in other North Coast areas. By 1999, local Nhlabane politician and strongman Phineas Mthethwa was under investigation by members of Vilakazi’s unit, and was facing charges of murder.
In February 1999 ANC MPP Walter Felgate, formerly a highly-placed IFP official, was injured in an assault by IFP supporters in the Nhlabane area. One of the witnesses was Vasi Ntuli. Ntuli was subsequently abducted and assaulted by people believed to be security force members and, shortly thereafter, was abducted in broad daylight by men in a car known to be associated with Mthethwa (who had been released on bail). Around two weeks later his decomposing body was found not far from Mthethwa’s home. Not long before the body was found members of Vilakazi’s Violence Investigation Unit, who were searching for it, came under heavy fire, in the vicinity of the same house, and were extremely lucky to escape with minor injury. Their vehicles were badly damaged. Certain members of Public Order Policing, who were believed to have a close relationship with Mthethwa, removed evidence and did not hand it in at the local station. As these crimes fell within its ambit of operation, Vialazi’s Violence Investigation Unit took the dockets for investigation – but they were subsequently summarily removed from their possession. It transpired that the removal had been arranged by ‘Old Guard’ police members and handed to the Scorpions. Attempts to follow up these matters have been unsuccessful.
ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION BUSTING
Since the Scorpions’ chief claim to fame is their supposed expertise in the fields of organised crime and corruption-busting, the public needs to know exactly what they have they achieved – in terms of court convictions.
For an elite, well-resourced unit there have been some embarrassing blunders. Take, for example, the much-vaunted arrest of ‘Mafia boss’ Palazzolo in November 1999. which ended in his acquittal, in March 2003, on fraud and forgery charges, with Cape regional magistrate Vermeulen commenting that the decision to prosecute ‘boggles the mind’.
Another controversial case involved their highly-publicised investigations into the affairs of the head of the Wheels for Africa business group, Billy Rautenbach, who was publicly linked, by the NDPP, to the murder of Daewoo South Africa president Yong Koo Kwon. Counsel for the NDPP reportedly conceded in court in December 1999 that ‘press statements made by the NDPP were contrary to the law and defamatory’. In February 2003 Rautenbach – whose assets had been seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit, and subsequently returned to him by the court – launched defamation lawsuits totally millions of rand against Ngcuka, Justice Minister Maduna and deputy national director of public prosecutions Willie Hofmeyr for ‘allegedly publishing false allegations that injured his reputation and denigrated his integrity.’ Presumably the taxpayer will fund the State’s defence of these actions.
While they are credited with the arrest of the head of the SAPS Organised crime unit in KZN, Piet Meyer, who was subsequently convicted (in 2002) on charges of corruption, theft and making a false statement, the senior investigating officer involved in the initial investigations is a member of the SAPS. Furthermore, according to organised crime expert, Advocate Jennifer Wild – who personally handed a file of 1995/6 court proceedings to investigators at the commencement of their investigations – the file contained more than enough material to press far more serious charges against Meyer than those for which he was indicted.
Although the media is replete with examples of Scorpions ‘stings’, ‘swoops’ and ‘raids’ there is a relative paucity of follow up material on the different cases. How many of these operations are successful, in that they result in convictions of criminals and the uncovering and neutralising of the forces behind organised crime activities.
By way of example :
The drugs scourge
In May 2001, according to a press report, the Scorpions ‘declared war’, on Durban drug lords, singling out Nigerians for special attention. By using Nigerians as scapegoats, Scorpions (like their counterparts in the police), not only fuel xenophobia, but divert attention from evidence placed before the TRC (Project Coast), and earlier research, about the role of the apartheid state in the manufacture and dissemination of highly addictive drugs. Just over two years after this declaration of war, a local newspaper report described the drug trade in Durban’s Point area as worth one billion rand per year, and the increase in drug peddling as ‘totally overwhelming’, which is hardly indicative of victory in the ‘war’ against dealers.
- What contribution have Scorpion activities made to stopping this trade by identifying and convicting those who are behind it, including by
- Following up on evidence about Project Coast and the huge quantities of addictive drugs linked to apartheid’s chemical warfare programme
- If Scorpions investigators are drawn from the ranks of the police, including security police/SANAB (these two arms of the SAP were interchangeable) are they likely to be any more successful than the police in exposing drug dealers?
South Africa’s missing billions
Research shows that for many years before the change of government in 1994 the wealth of the country, including monetary and intellectual property, was haemorrhaging into overseas havens, indicative of organised criminal activities on a breathtaking scale
- what progress have the Scorpions made in restoring the country’s wealth to its rightful owners, for the benefit of the people of South Africa
Corruption-busters par excellence?
Although the media’s long-standing preoccupation with the Arms Deal probe is understandable, it has unfortunately deflected attention from important questions about other corruption probes which appear to be in the hands of the Scorpions; the word appear is used because there is often confusion in the minds of the public as to whether investigators are police or Scorpions – or even from another Directorate reporting to the Director of Public Prosecutions. By way of example, the following two cases involve allegations of gross corruption with significant implications for stability in KwaZulu-Natal :
The strange case of “doctor” Isseri
In 1998 Sateesh Isseri (also known as Sateesh Singh) made startling and serious allegations in the press implicating certain senior provincial government officials in a conspiracy to divert millions of rand of provincial funds to the establishment of the ‘Kingdom of kwaZulu’. Isseri, who was in the business of providing medical supplies and ambulance services, claimed he had had meetings with politicians who had promised him that, in return for his assistance, he would be rewarded with state tenders relating to medical and ambulance services. At that stage Isseri, who was in the witness protection programme, was suing the province for two cheques allegedly issued to him and not honoured. However, by the beginning of 1999 Isseri was being sought for defrauding the provincial government, the witness protection programme and medical aid societies. By April 1999 the Directorate of serious economic offences, falling under NDPP Ngcuka was reportedly looking into the money-laundering of provincial funds, and showing an interest in Isseri’s allegations.
Isseri’s appearance in court in April 1999 was accompanied by allegations that the office of the national director of public prosecutions and the directorate for serious economic offences had attempted to exert influence on the prosecutors not to oppose bail for Isseri (the issuing of unauthorised instructions to prosecutors was one of the complaints levied against the Scorpions by Justice department officials in 2000).
This matter went quiet and, by the middle of 1999, a man believed to be Isseri was frequenting the Creighton area, posing as a journalist, and asking questions about weapons in the area. His activities endangered the lives of some of the local residents. He was believed by locals to be operating in collusion with people who were either police or Scorpions. They were presumably Scorpions members, since Ngcuka’s serious economic offences directorate had confirmed its investigation of the case.
According to an affidavit submitted in a murder trial heard in the Ixopo regional court in September 2001, it was known that a prominent politician had delivered weapons to the Creighton area in which the Isseri-related activities were taking place. If it was indeed the Scorpions who were investigating, nothing was done about these weapons. In fact, one of them was used to kill a young woman on 25 December 2000.
- Did the Scorpions take over the Isseri investigation – and, if so, what was the outcome of their investigation into what were extremely serious allegations involving money-laundering for purposes of political destabilisation?
- Why an uncharacteristic silence about this matter?
In 2001, following his dismissal, on grounds of misconduct, from the position of Deputy director-general in the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Professor Musa Xulu was employed as municipal manager for Ndondakusuka municipality, Mandini. Professor Xulu had long been dogged by controversy, having been accused in 1996 by Jeffrey Eric Robinson, a lecturer in the Music Department at the University of Zululand, of corruption in, among other things, adjusting students’ marks. Robinson’s allegations were upheld in a Supreme Court case in which Judgment was given in his favour.
Almost immediately after his appointment as municipal manager, extremely serious allegations, including of mismanagement of funds, nepotism and the irregular awarding of tenders, involving millions of rand, surfaced. In April 2003, Xulu was suspended from office, and a case of corruption involving the alleged irregular awarding of tenders was opened against him at the Mandini SAPS.
Several months before his suspension a wad of documentation was handed to the Scorpions who confirmed, in April, that they were investigating Xulu. According to reliable sources, this documentation contained highly incriminating information, allegedly implicating not only Xulu, but others also, in a series of front companies siphoning off huge amounts of government funding. Interestingly, a company whose name appears on letterheads linked to the alleged irregular awarding of tenders appears connected with a security company whose operatives, dressed and armed exactly like members of the SANDF, have been terrorising residents in Mbazwana, northern KZN, and posing a potential threat to the security of the State (see Natal Monitor report ‘Is the government in control?’). Both these companies are alleged to have had close links with the apartheid state.
- Why the uncharacteristic silence about these investigations?
- How far have they progressed?
- Is anyone going to be arrested and charged and, if not, why not?
THE SCORPIONS : A REVIEW IS LONG OVERDUE
All that glitters is, unfortunately, not gold, and the emperors’ clothes, it appears, are not nearly as splendid as they may seem :
The Scorpions’ disastrous foray into political violence in KZN not only weakened policing but allowed the forces behind the violence to escape unscathed.
A huge arsenal of weapons of war has still not been located, nor have those responsible for its procurement and deployment been arrested and charged. Despite their love of publicity, there is a singular lack of transparency insofar as investigations into allegations of high level corruption in KwaZulu-Natal is concerned. Nor has any evidence yet been presented of their having fulfilled their ‘organised crime’ mandate through exposing and neutralising drug dealers, and restoring the stolen wealth of the country to its rightful owners.
- Why have the Scorpions not expended the same effort on weapons of mass destruction as they have on Arms Deal corruption?
- Why is there a selective targeting of some people and not others?
- Why the flaunting of provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act in favour of trial by media?
Natal Monitor calls for
- The Scorpions to charge Deputy Zuma, if they do have a prima facie case against him, since he has already been charged, and found guilty, in the media
- The Arms Deal investigations to run their course
- The government to proceed, urgently, with a full, independent, review of the internal structuring, and operations of, the Scorpions and,
- unless cogent reasons can be found for their continued existence, to re-integrate investigators into the South African Police service
The Nkabinde and Mbele Case : Court record and Judgment (Pietermaritzburg R/C1488/99); Natal Monitor documentation on Richmond violence and Justice Under State Transition (J.U.S.T) reports by de Haas and Wild; correspondence between de Haas and the police, the Scorpions and government; newspaper clippings
Old Wine in New Wineskins : The National Prosecuting Authority Act 32 of 1998 and the amendment of the Act in 2000; J.U.S.T. reports; press clippings, including ‘Scorpions jobs defended’ Daily News 12/01/00; ‘Scorpions feel the sting of angry Justice officials’ Sunday Times 23/04/00; ‘Scorpions pay scales create row’ Mercury 26/10/00; full page Scorpions job advertisement City Press 23/06/02; ‘Scorpions swoop on their own staff’ Sunday Times 15/06/03; ‘Scorpions sting in the foot’ Sunday Tribune 17/10/99; de Haas M 1999 The more things change…..Policing in the ‘New’ South Africa
Political violence: Goldstone and Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) reports, press reports and published articles on Jamile, Trust Feed, KZP hitsquads (Mbambo, Mkhize and Hlongwane) cases and Natal Monitor reports, secret memorandum handed to TRC; sundry press reports re: weapons cache, including ‘Conspiracy theory over arms cache’ The Mercury 12/05/99; ‘Bring Powell back to SA’ City Press 5/8/01; ‘Warrant still out for IFP’s Powell’ Mercury 25/03/03; Pauw J 1997 Into the Heart of Darkness ; correspondence and personal communications de Haas and police and de Haas and Scorpions re: Richmond, Paulpietersburg and kwaMbonambi cases; Amnesty International 1999 Urgent Action re: Vasi Ntuli.
Corruption and organised crime : Sundry press reports re: Palazzola, Rautenbach and Meyer including ‘Mafia boss arrested’ 13/11/99; ‘Nguka rejects incompetence claims’ Mercury 18/3/03; ‘Meyer gets ten years’ Mercury 16/12/02; ‘Ngcuka sued for R180m’ City Press 9/02/03
Sundry press reports on drugs, including ‘Scorpions declare war on city drug lords’ Daily News 15/05/01; ‘Point drug trade ‘worth R1bn a year’ Daily News 3/7/03; The matter of Azor S E and D B Azor, Supreme Court Durban and Coastal Local Division Case No 2360/96, various reports and papers on apartheid as an organised crime syndicate by Advocate Jennifer Wild, including Wild J 1993(1998) ‘Apartheid Cyndicate Inc (First Force Diversified Holdings)’; TRC hearings on Project Coast; Burger M and C Gould 2002 Secrets and Lies
Regarding the Isseri case, sundry press reports, including ‘Doctor tells all’ Sunday Tribune 9/08/98; ‘Prosecution team under pressure’ Mercury 16/4/99; interview with Isseri; The State versus T Zulu, Ixopo regional court, September 2001
Xulu case : Press reports, including ‘Xulu booted out of office’ City Press 13/4/03; interviews with concerned Mandini residents; J E Robinson versus University of Zululand, Professor C Dlamini, C H Nxumalo and Prof Ndakino Supreme Court Durban and Coastal Local Division 6328/96 Natal Monitor reports on Mbazwana/Mabaso reserve at www.violencemonitor.com .