By Jessie Taylor
Following the release of a report by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State (Zondo Commission), a specialised task team will be established by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
The NPA is the organisation mandated by the Constitution to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and to carry out any necessary functions incidental to instituting criminal proceedings.
Reflecting on past failings
The Zondo Commission was established to investigate widespread and high-level corruption allegations among government agencies.
The hearings, which lasted for more than 400 days, included testimony from almost 280 witnesses and collected materials amounting to a petabyte of data, equivalent to roughly 500 billion pages of printed text, on corruption, fraud and related offences. This evidence includes affidavits, investigative reports and other evidential material.
The first part of the report identified several public figures the NPA can act against in the upcoming months, as evidence is readily available. Some of the charges include contravening the Public Finances Management Act and perjury.
The Commission’s work documents the extent of state capture that befell South Africa and how such capture occurred, said NPA spokesperson Advocate Mthunzi Mhaga.
“The Commission must be commended for this important work that demonstrates that South Africa has the political maturity and wherewithal to mount an effective enquiry into one of the darkest periods of the post-apartheid era. The Commission’s recommendations will allow for the strengthening of the rule of law in South Africa, ensuring that no one, irrespective of their power, position or wealth, is above the law. South Africans deserve nothing less,” said Advocate Mhaga.
The report also recommended further investigation and prosecution against several individuals. A second and third part of the report will be handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the end of February.
President Ramaphosa said: “This is a defining moment in our country’s effort to definitively end the era of state capture and to restore the integrity, credibility and capability of our institutions, but more importantly, our government. The formal handover of the first part of the report of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector takes place nearly four years since the establishment of the Commission.”
Resolutions for a just future
One of the findings in the first part of the report was that the NPA had failed to respond sufficiently to state capture and suffered institutional weaknesses.
“The NPA takes note of the Commission’s finding that it failed to respond adequately to state capture and that the NPA’s institutional weaknesses need to be addressed. In this regard, the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) has publicly acknowledged the challenges facing the NPA, including in its efforts to prosecute high-level corruption matters,” said Advocate Mhaga.
“Rebuilding the NPA after years of being undermined by state capture actors was never going to be quick or easy. Yet, significant progress has been made, and the NPA is slowly but surely being rebuilt to enable it to deliver on its vital mandate. The NPA will also continue prioritising internal processes to ensure that any prosecutors engaged in acts of criminality or improper conduct, including in the context of state capture, are dealt with effectively and fairly.”
The NPA’s dedicated task force will work with the Hawks to review all cases covered in the first part of the Commission’s report, including those already proclaimed by the NPA’s Investigating Directorate (ID). The Hawks are mandated to deal with priority offences such as corruption, commercial crime and organised crime.
“The NPA and the Hawks are systematically reviewing the Commission’s findings and recommendations, to investigate and build cases for criminal prosecution against those who broke the law,” said Advocate Mhaga.
“This will include, where appropriate, the freezing and forfeiture of the proceeds of crimes. It’s, however, important to note the differences between the evidence presented before a commission of enquiry and evidence required to meet the standard of proof for prosecutions. In the case of the latter, criminal investigations will be conducted so that evidence can be presented in criminal matters in accordance with the South African law of evidence. This is a Herculean task given the volume of materials and the finite human and financial resources available to our law enforcement and criminal justice agencies,” said Advocate Mhaga.
The Task Force will build on the work done within the NPA over the past few years, collaborating with the Zondo Commission and other law enforcement partners.
But it is not just the judiciary and law enforcement agencies that must implement the report’s findings, said President Ramaphosa. He added that all of society is responsible for working toward a corruption-free future.
“We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the Commission not only mark a decisive break with the corrupt practices of the past but that they provide the foundation for greater transparency, accountability and ethical conduct within all state institutions and across society,” he said.
The South African Presidency