LETTER: From permanence to just a stopgap measure

by | Sep 13, 2023 | Chapter 9, General | 0 comments

Linda Ensor’s report on the NPA Amendment Bill refers (“NPA amendment bill a ‘stopgap measure’, deputy justice minister tells MPs”, September 10).

The Liberal politician Joseph Chamberlain is recorded in 1886 as having said: “In politics, there is no use in looking beyond the next fortnight.” In 1964 then British prime minister Harold Wilson famously misquoted Chamberlain by saying, “A week is a long time in politics”.

The bill, which is intended to establish the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption (ID) as a permanent entity within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), was published by the cabinet on August 29. It was stoutly defended during the following week by justice minister Ronald Lamola, both in a media release and in an interview he gave to the Sunday Times. He claimed the bill gives the existing ID “permanence”.

However, when confronted in parliament with the many defects in the bill, his deputy John Jeffery unexpectedly announced the next week that the bill is a “stopgap measure” the cabinet wishes to put in place pending receipt of a report from the year-old National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council. Given the history of the disbandment of the Scorpions, it is far-fetched to imagine that the ID, as a “stopgap” employer, will attract the trained specialists it requires.

Moving from claiming “permanence” to conceding a “stopgap measure” in two weeks is not the stuff of which good governance is made. The falling around is attributable to the impossibility of maintaining control of the anti-corruption machinery of state on the one hand (very much in the DNA of the ANC) while complying with the binding requirements of the law as laid down on March 17 2011 by the Constitutional Court in the Glenister litigation on the other.

In 2011 former minister Kader Asmal pointed out the need for reforms but was ignored. A stopgap ID cannot possibly be a constitutionally compliant body; the minister is apparently aware of this, his deputy not so much. The cabinet already has the views of the national executive committee of the ANC, expressed in August 2020. Draft bills suggested by Accountability Now have been gathering dust since August 2021, and DA-sponsored private member bills modelled on the Accountability Now suggestions the IFP adopted back in 2019 will soon be introduced.

A Chapter Nine Anti-Corruption Commission is manifestly the best-practice solution available for addressing the scourge of serious corruption in SA. The government is obliged to put in place constitutionally compliant legislation that both satisfies the Glenister criteria and is implemented properly.

It has not done so since 2011, and as a consequence the state came within an ace of being captured. Further delay is unconscionable for constitutionalism and the fiscal health of the country. Public interest litigation on the issue beckons.

Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now

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