Friday, May 22, 2009

New Anti-Crime Unit firmly under ANC Control

The following news report was widely screened on South African TV news channels and print media yesterday:

Western Cape Deputy Police Commissioner for Intelligence Anwar Dramat has been appointed head of the unit which will replace the Scorpions. Dramat is now the head of the Directorate of Priority Crime in investigation (DIPC). Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced his appointment in Cape Town earlier this morning. Mthethwa told media in Cape Town that the staff of the unit would be drawn from the ranks of the police and the former Scorpions.

The Priority Crime unit was created after the Directorate of Special Operations, more commonly known as the Scorpions, was disbanded. Former Police Commissioner George Fivaz says the new head of the unit which will replace the Scorpions, faces a huge challenge. The Scorpions would formally cease to exist on July 1 this year. All that unit's investigations would be taken over by the new unit, which would introduce a new chapter of crime fighting in South Africa.

In June 1999, President Thabo Mbeki announced that "a special and adequately staffed and equipped investigative unit will be established urgently, to deal with all national priority crime, including police corruption".

In September 1999, the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) was set up, with the first director Frank Dutton. Soon, the Scorpions became notorious for their raids of houses of high-ranking politicians within the ANC Party. Following investigations of alleged corruption in case of the South African Arms Deal, raids were commenced at the houses of Deputy President Jacob Zuma, former Transport Minister Mac Maharaj and Durban businessman Schabir Shaik.

Reduction of power
The ANC decided to merge the Scorpions with the Police by June 2008, reducing their power. The disbandment was recommended by South Africa's minister of safety and security at the time, Charles Nqakula. This decision was controversial and has been opposed by groups ranging from opposition parties to organised business. The Democratic Alliance (DA) accused the ANC of merging the Scorpions with the South African Police Service (SAPS) in order to protect corrupt ANC officials.

On October 23, 2008 - the South African Parliament officially abolished the Scorpions. The vote was 252 in favour with 63 against. Preparations are being made for the remaining Scorpions members to start work in the Police's Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation which is headed by the newly appointed Dramat. - Additional reporting by Sapa


Who is Anwar Dramat?
Anwar Dramat was sentenced to 12 years on Robben Island in 1988 for his activities as an ANC “Umkhonto we Sizwe” underground operative. His name also emerged in the hearings of the Truth Commission as a torture victim of security police Captain Jeff Benzien, who applied for amnesty for the murder of Ashley Kriel. Kriel died on 15th July 1987. Captain Benzien was accused of torturing seven suspected terrorists while they were under police interrogation. One of these men was Anwar Dramat, but the evidence could not prove that Anwar Dramat was ill treated or assaulted by security police. Captain Benzien was granted amnesty for the unlawful killing of Ashley Kriel and also for other offences.

Dramat joined the South African Police Service in 1994 at the age of 26 after serving only 6 years of his sentence, obviously -- after the ANC came to power. He quickly progressed through the ranks to become the Head of Crime Intelligence in the Western Cape in 2003 were he held the top rank of Deputy Police Commissioner. Dramat played a pivotal role in ending “Pagad” gangsterism and taxi violence in the Western Cape.



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