President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proposed crime and corruption-busting directorate could be declared invalid by the Constitutional Court because it does not come anywhere close to what the effective but disbanded Scorpions were.
During his State of the Nation address on Thursday, Ramaphosa said the unit, to be headed by National Prosecuting Authority’s advocate Shamila Batohi, will exclusively deal with investigating and prosecuting serious corruption.
The unit has been likened to the Scorpions, which the ANC disbanded in October 2008.
But Accountability Now director advocate Paul Hoffman said the euphoria was misplaced.
“You cannot get it right if your anticorruption unit is controlled by a member of the executive [Ramaphosa],” said Hoffman. “He is trying to do the right thing in a wrong way. The directorate is liable to be struck down as invalid by the Constitutional Court.”
He said the Scorpions, which was replaced by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, or the Hawks, can only be disbanded by a majority vote in parliament, whereas Ramaphosa’s unit was accountable to him only.
In 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that the legislation which replaced the Scorpions with the Hawks was “constitutionally invalid” and that the reason was that the Hawks were “vulnerable to political interference”.
Hoffman said the Scorpions were “a specialised, trained, and truly independent, resourced, and had a secure tenure of office”.
He said for Ramaphosa to succeed in fighting and prosecuting grand-scale corruption, he would have to announce that parliament will amend the constitution to allow for the formation of a Section 9 institution, similar to the public protector and auditor-general, dedicated to fighting and combating organised crime and corruption.