Quote of the week

The unhappy fact that it is journalists, investigating organs of state and officialdom and the political class and their involvement in corrupt practices to loot the State’s resources, who, by so doing, attract the attention of powerful and influential persons who are capable of suborning the apparatus of the State to smell out their adversaries, cannot be ignored. The examples of abuse of the system have been addressed elsewhere in this judgment. Moreover, the respondents’ perspectives assume that the designated judge is not lied to and is diligent… In my view, in the absence of a rebuttal, this example illustrates a grave vulnerability in RJCA that such an apparent abuse could occur. The common cause examples of blatant lies being told to the designated judge further exacerbates the vulnerability of the system.

Sutherland J
Amabhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism NPC and Another v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Others
29 May 2008

Scorpions application: snowballs chance in hell

I agree with commentators that there is almost no chance that the Constitutional Court will make any order at this stage to stop the adoption of the legislation to disband the Scorpions and incorporate some of its members into a special unit of the South African Police Service. The application is clearly premature and should have waited until the legislation was actually adopted.

But even then, chances would be slim for such an application to succeed because one would have to show that there is no legitimate purpose for the legislation (which would be almost impossible to d0) or one would have to show that the cabinet and Parliament had unlawfully abdicated its role as legislature and executive to the majority party leadership who had instructed them to abolish the Scorpions and had thus circumvented the Constitution.

If the Court made such a finding it would put severe strain on the system and might dent the credibility of the Court. AS the Constitutional Court has shown in the floor crossing case, for example, it would be extremely reluctant to get involved in such political controversies in the absence of a clear argument that one of the rights in the BIll of Rights are being infringed.

But some aspects of the legislation as it stanmds might be vulnerable. It states that “selected” members of the DSO would be placed in a new unit in the SAPS but it is unclear how these members will be selected. The members will also have to undergo a security clearance but as the Bill stands even that might not be sufficient as some members of the DSO may not be selected. This might infringe on the labour rights of the DSO members as set out in the Constitution.

Who decides who is “selected” to form part of the new unity and based on what criteria? As far as I can tell the Bill is silent on this. This is an ominous aspect of the Bill as it provides for the de-selection of some members of the existing Scorpions who might be working on the sensitive cases dealing with Mr Jacob Zuma na d Jackie Selebi.

If the Minister or the head of the SAPS can select or de-select who of the Scorpions should form part of the new unit this might open the possibility of rigging the process in such a way as to completely destroy the present investigations into high profile ANC types. This would be unconscionable.

 

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