Presidential attention should be turned to reforming the capacity of the criminal justice administration
20 March 2023 – 16:55
Weekend coverage of presidential utterances reveals this gem concerning the revelations by the former CEO of Eskom: “We were most concerned about his utterances and what immediately came to [my] mind was that André de Ruyter, being the person at the level of group CEO, should have gone to any of our institutions with the information that he purports to have because those are institutions that are independent, where there won’t be any form of interference, diversion, blockage or even any form of subterfuge.”
The institutions to which the president refers are those in our broken criminal justice administration: the Hawks, the prosecution service or even the SA Revenue Service, which has no role to play in the investigation of crimes not related to tax.
The Hawks are a mere police unit tasked with the investigation of priority crimes. To suggest that the Hawks are independent is to live in denial of the facts. The Hawks report to the national commissioner of police, who according to Section 207 of the constitution “must exercise control over and manage the police service”.
He takes the “directions of the cabinet member responsible for policing”. That minister is Bheki Cele, a disgraced and dismissed (by Jacob Zuma, nogal) former national police commissioner branded “dishonest and incompetent” by the Moloi inquiry into his fitness for office.
The Hawks are neither independent nor immune to interference, diversion, blockage or subterfuge. Off and on they have been investigating allegations of corruption against Cele since 2010, no doubt “without any form of interference, diversion, blockage or subterfuge.”
Similar disabilities apply to the prosecution service. It is under the “final responsibility” of the minister of justice and has as its accounting officer the director-general in the Department of Justice. It was also gutted and hollowed out during state capture and will not recover from these indignities for many a long year. Its leadership has pleaded for independence in parliament, without success.
Inadvertently, the president has in one long sentence put his finger on many of the ailments of the limping criminal justice administration. It lacks the capacity, skills, resources and security of tenure of office the law requires for all in the anti-corruption entity, quite apart from their independence.
De Ruyter cannot, in all fairness, be blamed for going public with his concerns. Presidential attention should be turned to reforming the capacity of the criminal justice administration to counter serious corruption, informed by an intention to comply with the law as laid down in the Glenister litigation by our highest court.
Properly implementing the Glenister rules is urgent because it is what the law requires in these times of endemic and systemic corruption, greylisting and ratings downgrades.
Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now