The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) new Scorpions-style unit announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his state of the nation address will consist of investigators sourced from across the justice cluster.
According to sources familiar with the developments, the new unit, which will fall under the office of National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi, will not have it’s own permanent head or staff.
“The unit will have members seconded to it from the Hawks, the SA Police Service (SAPS), the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Special Investigating Unit and the private sector if such a need arises,” said one.
Others have expressed reservations about how the new unit will be staffed because the Hawks, the SAPS and the NPA are all understaffed and lack the capacity they need to conduct high-level, complex investigations.
City Press understands that a needs analysis in terms of its human resource requirements will be drawn up once Ramaphosa proclaims the terms and scope of the unit.
“A lot of people are overexcited that the Scorpions are returning. There is nothing like that as this unit will still rely on the police and the Hawks to be seconded to it to assist with the investigations,” said one NPA insider privy to the details.
According to the initial proposal made to Ramaphosa, the members of the new unit will remain in their original positions from their respective institutions and will return to their posts once their secondments come to an end.
“A lot of people are calling in asking about vacancies, since the announcement. I personally received calls from some of the people who once worked for the Directorate of Special Operations [Scorpions], saying we shouldn’t forget them when the posts are advertised. I am tired of explaining to them that there will be no such thing,” the insider told City Press.
The NPA staffer said initial discussions were that the unit would deal with cases emanating from the ongoing commissions of inquiry, including the state capture commission headed by Justice Raymond Zondo.
“The idea of the unit is a great one because the powers vested in it will be enough to deal with the rampant corruption currently being exposed at the state capture commission,” said another prosecutor.
“It is also important to have a specialised unit that will not shift focus from the mandate at hand.”
However, with the NPA sitting with a vacancy rate of 19% – 1 064 posts, of which 615 are prosecutorial posts – allocating prosecutors to the new unit may well cause more delays in other cases.
“Currently, the SAPS does not have forensic investigative capability. All of the work is currently being outsourced to private law firms and this may also affect the success of the unit,” said another insider.
On Thursday, Ramaphosa announced that during discussions with Batohi they both agreed that there was a need to establish the unit to deal with corruption.
“I will soon be promulgating a proclamation that will set out the specific terms of reference of the directorate. In broad terms, the directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, other commissions and disciplinary inquiries,” he said to the cheers of many who anticipated the return of the Scorpions.
Ramaphosa said the unit would be tasked with identifying priority cases to investigate and prosecute, and will also seize assets considered to be proceeds of crime.
The new unit will be formed along the lines of the provisions of the section of the NPA Act, which allows the president to proclaim the establishment of one or more investigating directorates in the office of the NDPP to address specific offences, as well as criminal or unlawful activities.
The act stipulates that the president’s proclamation is made in response to the recommendation of the NDPP, the minister of justice and the minister of police.
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