• Plants can play a vital role in linking individuals to crime scenes: from the leaves we step on to the pollen that stick to our clothes. If you are curious about the secret language of plants and the link to crime scenes, be sure to read the article about Forensic Botany published in Servamus: September 2020.

  • Forensics is a fascinating science with a variety of subdisciplines that are used to link an individual to a crime scene. In an article published in Servamus: September 2020, we highlight some of the lesser known forensic disciplines.

  • Wildlife crime can be fought by using forensics, such as in poaching incidents where forensics is used to link seized rhino horn or ivory to a crime scene. If you want to read about the development of wildlife forensics, be sure to read the article in Servamus: September 2020.

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Article by Kotie Geldenhuys
Selected photos by GroundUp

South Africa needs to assemble its best resources to fight the scourge of corruption, fraud and organised crime. This can only be achieved by means of a prosecutor-led investigation model, which is not a new approach in South Africa. In fact, there was a time when it was used with great success in the country.

Corrupt high-level officials have enjoyed impunity in South Africa for many years. But during the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in February 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that a special investigating unit would be established within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to tackle State corruption. This brought hope that some of the corrupt will, at last, be held accountable. The President noted at the time that this Directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, other commissions and disciplinary inquiries. It will identify priority cases to investigate and prosecute and will recover assets identified to be the proceeds of corruption. “The Directorate will bring together a range of investigatory and prosecutorial capacity from within government and in the private sector under an investigating director reporting to the National Director of Public Prosecution,” said President Ramaphosa (The Presidency, 2019). This prosecutor-led model has proven exceptionally effective in South Africa and elsewhere. Prior to its disbandment in 2009, the former Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) (commonly referred to as the Scorpions) used this approach with great success.

The new NPA Investigating Directorate was established by the President in terms of Proc 20 published in Government Gazette GG 42383, dated 4 April 2019. This new Directorate will investigate “serious, high-profile and complex corruption” cases (www.npa.gov.za/Investigating_Directorate). These include incidents arising from the 2018 commission of inquiry into the South African Revenue Service and the current commissions into State Capture and the Public Investment Corporation.

Defining prosecutor-led investigation
Both Schönteich (2001) as well as the Secretariat of the Anti-corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (2010) define prosecutor-led investigation as the process whereby, throughout the investigation, the prosecutor allocated to the case contributes his or her analytical skills, and his or her assessment of the elements of the offence and the evidence that is available to support the prosecution of the offence being investigated. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) (2001) describes prosecutor-led investigation as the process where the prosecutor is involved in the early stage of the investigation, with the intention to guide the investigation process from the time the crime is reported until the case is brought to court. In this regard, the involvement of the prosecutor should be understood in the context of guiding the investigation and not literally conducting the investigation per se. Navickiené (2010) shares the same opinion and states that the efficiency of criminal investigation partly depends on cooperation between investigators and prosecutors. The NPA (2013) similarly asserts that effective cooperation with the police and other investigating agencies from the outset is essential to the efficacy of the prosecution process.

Myeza (2019) argues that the prosecutor-led investigation model in South Africa means the early involvement of the prosecutor in the investigation of a case. In other words, the prosecutor-led investigation is the process where the prosecutor gets involved at the early stage of the investigation, with the intention to guide the investigation process from the time the crime is reported until the case is brought to court. By using this model, the prosecutor gains knowledge about the case when the investigation starts and she or he then provides guidance to the investigating officer to ensure that the evidence gathered is relevant and legally sound for successful prosecution. The advent of new and sophisticated methods of perpetrating crimes and increasing complexities within the law have led to increased prosecutorial intervention in the police investigation and greater cooperation between these two groups, where previously such intervention or cooperation did not exist (UNODC, 2014).

Background of prosecutor-led investigation
Prosecutor-led investigation is nothing new in South Africa as it dates back to 1999 when former President Thabo Mbeki announced in his opening address to Parliament, that a special investigation unit was to be established to deal with national priority crimes. Consequently, the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) was established within the NPA. Members of the DSO were given the same powers as the SAPS in terms of the investigation of crime, entry, search and seizure, arrests and execution of warrants. But the DSO differed from the SAPS as the DSO members held official titles such as “special investigator” and “senior special investigator” and did not investigate ordinary crimes such as housebreaking and assault. According to the NPA Annual Report for 2005/2006, the DSO primarily focused on the following major areas of crime:

  • Organised criminal groups;
  • complex and serious financial crimes;
  • public and private sector corruption; and
  • offences of money laundering and racketeering created in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act 21 of 1998 (POCA) (NPA, 2006).

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[This is only an extract of an article published in Servamus: April 2020 from pp 10-16. The rest of the article explains criminal investigations; intelligence-led versus prosecutor-led and prosecutor-guided investigations and the advantages of prosecutor-led investigations. We also touch on things to keep in mind during prosecutor-led investigations and the relationship between the investigator and prosecutor. If you are interested in reading the rest of this comprehensive article, send an e-mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to find out how. Ed.]

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Servamus - September 2020

When crimes are committed, the first thing criminals want to do is to get rid of the evidence that would link them to that crime.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Albert du Preez Myburgh abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered his close friend's eight-year-old daughter in May 1999, he did not realise that bugs would play a role in his conviction and sentence.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
When Sinja Robin Mabitsela and Josias Xaniseka Mkansi (also known as the Alexandra Balaclava serial rapists) started their raping spree, they did not realise that their DNA would be their downfall.
By Kotie Geldenhuys
Imagine how challenging it must be for scientists to identify a victim when only skeleton remains are available… now imagine how much bigger this challenge becomes for forensic anthropologists when only burnt skeleton remains are available and they have to identify these bones.
By Kotie Geldenhuys

Pollex - September 2020

In Servamus: July 2020, Pollex published a legal quiz regarding the current/recent state of disaster. Please refer to that issue for the questions.

Letters - September 2020

The current COVID-19 pandemic which has affected many and claimed the lives of so many, is still continuing to be a global threat for which there is no cure.
Const Kwayo Louw (23), a policeman from Kraaifontein, was recently commended by the Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz for his exemplary contribution towards his community in Kraaifontein.
Retired W/O Sham Singh, the first Indian Station Commander of Lenasia, celebrated his 80th birthday on 9 July 2020. A milestone birthday for anyone and it was even posted on Facebook.
September Magazine Cover

Servamus' Mission

Servamus is a community-based safety and security magazine for both members of the community as well as safety and security practitioners with the aim of increasing knowledge and sharing information, dedicated to improving their expertise, professionalism and service delivery standards. It promotes sound crime management practices, freedom of speech, education, training, information sharing and a networking platform.