LETTER: Why corruption goes unpunished

by | Apr 21, 2023 | Chapter 9, General | 0 comments

Zuma broke the criminal justice system

Justice Malala poses a pertinent question in his column (At Home & Abroad, March 30-April 5) — one deserving of an answer.

The fundamental reason for the extended impunity of those he names and shames is that the criminal justice administration of South Africa, in so far as countering serious corruption is concerned, is broken. It was broken purposely by Jacob Zuma’s administration by, first, dispensing with the services of the Scorpions, and then by gutting the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) by removing its investigative capacity and hollowing it out by planting “saboteurs” in its ranks.

The legislation put in place under Zuma reserves the investigation of all priority crimes to the Hawks, a mere police unit that’s not up to the task — especially when the politically connected are suspects.

Mindful of this prospect, President Cyril Ramaphosa proclaimed the Investigating Directorate (ID) of the NPA in March 2019 to investigate and prosecute state capture-related crimes. This unit is tiny, unconstitutional and ineffectual.

There is talk of making the ID a “permanent” fixture in the NPA by way of ordinary legislation. That would expose it to the same fate the Scorpions suffered. That body, too, was a creature of an ordinary statute before its summary dissolution by a simple majority vote in parliament.

The ID’s capacity constraints no doubt preclude it from going after the SAA crew. It has been known to refer investigative work to the Hawks, for what that is worth.

The impunity will continue while we have no investigators and no prosecutors up to completing the task.

Nothing in the current set-up is consistent with the binding rulings of the Constitutional Court on the criteria for countering corruption effectively and efficiently. The establishment of a Chapter 9 anti-corruption entity is what is needed, but that is not wanted by the thoroughly compromised governing alliance.

Paul Hoffman SC
Director, Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa

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