October 22, 2008

SA abolishes crime-fighting unit

Parliament has voted to abolish the country's independent crime-fighting unit, the Scorpions. The body has been behind several high-profile political investigations, including a corruption probe against ruling party leader Jacob Zuma. The ANC-dominated parliament voted by a margin of about four to one to disband the Scorpions and create a new force of criminal investigators that will be integrated into the police.
The Scorpions unit has shaken South Africa's political landscape in the last few years, probing and arresting several prominent politicians. Among those pursued were ANC former chief whip Tony Yengeni and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the former wife of ex-President Nelson Mandela. The Scorpions also led an investigation against suspended police commissioner Jacki Selebi, who faces trial in 2009. But observers say the unit, formally known as the Directorate of Special Operations, pushed its luck too far when it pressed corruption charges against Mr Zuma. (rts)

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