n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - A need for a single anti-corruption agency in South Africa : a comparative study

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), nicknamed the 'Scorpions', was launched in September 1999 in Gugulethu Township near Cape Town, South Africa. After initial start-up problems, the National Assembly amended the National Prosecuting Authority Act 32 of 1998, in order to establish the Directorate of Special Operations as an investigating directorate of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). This was done in terms of the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Act 61 of 2000. However, as the Scorpions gained public favour, they also exceeded their area of jurisdiction by performing functions which fell outside of their mandate, such as intelligence gathering. These 'outside of their mandate' (unlawful) activities led to the so-called 'Browse Mole Report' - an intelligence-driven report which implicated some politicians within the ruling party with an attempt to overthrow the government. As a result of this, the National Assembly instituted an investigation into the authenticity of the report, which proved to be false and unsanctioned activity. This happened whilst the unit was busy investigating corruption charges against the president of the African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, who later became the president of the country. Two weeks before South Africa's general elections of 2009, the corruption charges against Zuma were withdrawn by the NPA, citing among others, interference in the administration of justice by senior investigators of the unit. In the 'Hugh Glenister v President of the Republic of South Africa & Others' [CCT 48/10] court case, the key question asked by the complainant (Glenister) was whether the national legislation that created the Directorate For Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), known as the Hawks, and disbanded the Scorpions (DSO), was constitutionally valid. This article seeks to unravel the reasons that led to the dissolution and subsequent amalgamation of the unit into the South African Police Service, as well as proposed solutions.

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