The prospects of creating an effective new unit to replace the elite crime fighting Scorpions were good, Parliament’s safety and security and justice committees said on Thursday after talks with the police.
“We will be carefully monitoring progress,” the committees said in a statement. “We were assured by the [SA Police Service] that they will co-operate fully with the Directorate of Special Operations staff to ensure their smooth transfer to a new organised crime fighting unit.
“They committed themselves to facilitating the formation of an effective and powerful organised crime fighting unit.” The committees met the staff of the National Prosecuting Authority’s Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) – known as the Scorpions – in Tshwane on Wednesday.
They said it had been agreed that a team of four representatives each from the police and Scorpions would make proposals on transitional mechanisms to ensure the effective transfer of DSO staff.
The team would also tackle the processing of cases, transfer of assets and labour-related matters. The committees said they engaged particularly with the police’s organised crime and commercial crime units during the visit. Although impressed with their work, the committees felt they needed to do better and urged them to publicise their achievements and inform the public of their activities.
The committee said after its meeting with the Scorpions on Wednesday that much of the discussion had revolved around transitional mechanisms to ensure a smooth and effective transfer of staff to the new police unit.
DSO representatives were to provide further specific proposals in this regard. “It is in our common national interest to ensure that the new unit is more powerful and effective than the DSO and we stressed that we wanted the DSO members to contribute to ensuring this,” the committees said.
The ANC resolved at its national conference in Polokwane in December that members of the Scorpions performing policing functions be incorporated into the SAPS. This despite a recommendation by the Khampepe Commission that the DSO be retained within the NPA, but that political oversight and responsibility for its law enforcement component be transferred to the Minister of Safety and Security. It was later announced that the SAPS Amendment Bill sought to establish a Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation to bring together the police units and DSO units responsible for investigating organised and serious crime.
The National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill created conditions which would allow for the relocation of DSO special investigators to the SAPS to allow for the creation of the new directorate.