Selebi verdict: The failure of cadre deployment and Scorpions disbandment
The outcome of the Jackie Selebi corruption case is certainly a positive development, because it demonstrates that not all senior ANC politicians are above the law. However, the case must in retrospect serve to highlight two particular issues: firstly, the essential role that was played by the Directorate of Special Operations (Scorpions), which was controversially disbanded last year, in instigating investigations of politicians; secondly, the chronic failure of the ANC's policy of cadre deployment.
Firstly, the Selebi case was one of the last high profile cases instigated by the Scorpions. The fact that a guilty verdict has been delivered serves yet again as evidence of the fact that the Scorpions were the most effective investigative unit in the history of the South African justice system. They were not afraid of investigating senior politicians in the ANC, in large part because their independence offered them the ability to act without fear or favour in upholding the law.
Selebi's guilty verdict demonstrates exactly why the Scorpions were disbanded. The new ruling faction of the ANC clearly saw how effective the Scorpions were in prosecuting senior politicians guilty of wrongdoing, and decided to take action to ensure that were disbanded and replaced by a unit in the police department that would be easy to manipulate and politicise, both directly and via indirect means like under-resourcing.
To illustrate that, consider that, on average, in the five years preceding their disbandment, the Scorpions concluded 233 cases per year. This includes 2008/2009 when the unit was being shut down and only finalised 78 cases. A total of 639 Scorpions cases were transferred to the Hawks on 1 July 2009, but by the end of December last year only 38 had been finalised.
The pace of investigations has stagnated, even though the Minister of Police gave us his assurance that none of the Scorpions cases would be prejudiced.