The restructuring of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), including its Specialised Com-mercial Crimes Unit (SCCU), has been put on hold by President Jacob Zuma, pending the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster’s completion of its combined Ministerial strategy in July.
Reports indicate that the future of the specialised units, including the SCCU, headed by advocate Chris Jordaan, remains uncertain. National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) advocate Menzi Simelane proposed the restructuring of the NPA in a strategic plan, which was placed before Parliament’s Justice and Constitutional Development Committee, on April 13, 2010, and which stated that the Asset Forfeiture Unit had already been disbanded.
Simelane failed to reverse the restructuring of the units despite being advised by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe to put it on hold after political party the Democratic Alliance (DA) spokesperson for justice and constitutional development Dene Smuts revealed the proposed disbandments to the Minister on April 21, 2010.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit appeared safe after Radebe intervened, and the SCCU restructuring was reversed after Zuma stated, in a reply to Smuts, during his Budget vote, that she had his assurance that any change would be stopped pending the Security Minister’s review of the implementation of the SSCU’s performance agreements with the President.
Smuts believes that the NPA made false claims to the public servants union that Jordaan was retiring to justify the restructuring of his unit. “The false statement cannot be allowed to pass,” she says.
The Justice Portfolio Committee was asked by the DA to recall Simelane and the NPA for a new strategic plan before Parliament voted the allocation of R 2,4-billion for the NPA for the year’s work. The African National Congress committee members did not agree and voted for the funds. The result is that Simelane resumed with the demotion and redeployment of senior prosecutors.
The DA reports that, within months of his appointment, Simelane had caused a crisis at the NPA. He was appointed NDPP in December 2009, after working as the deputy director at the NPA since October 2009.
Despite Simelane’s plans being on hold, the DA is uneasy as the SCCU might still face renewed attempts at disbandment.
“No developments are expected until July, although I think that Simelane is consolidating his hold over prosecutors, who are naturally in a state of uncertainty,” says Smuts.
The SCCU was established in 1999, with the aim of reducing complex commercial crime and, together with the South African Police Service commercial branch, effectively investigating and prosecuting these crimes.
The unit has been successful to date and handles about 3 000 cases a year with a con- viction rate of 94% for commercial crimes, says Smuts. The unit has appointed its 200 staff members to specific positions according to their skills in the special directorate.
In his Budget speech, Radebe stated that all the units that were under the NPA continued to be key pillars in the country’s fight against crime and corruption.