South Africa


NPA and Hawks face ‘Herculean’ task in wake of part one of Zondo Commission report, establish task team to review cases

NPA and Hawks face ‘Herculean’ task in wake of part one of Zondo Commission report, establish task team to review cases
National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Advocate Shamila Batohi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

In a joint statement released on Wednesday 12 January by the National Prosecuting Authority and the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation, the national agencies addressed the first of three reports from the Zondo commission, released earlier this month. These organisations did not shy away from the fact that the sheer volume of work to be done, given the scale of state capture reported by the commission, coupled with their own internal deficiencies, has left them with what they describe as a task of the utmost magnitude. 

An urgent review of all cases covered in the Zondo Commission report is to be conducted by a dedicated National Prosecuting Task Force, the body announced on Wednesday.

In response to the Commission’s first report, the NPA created the Task Force, which it said would be coordinated at the highest levels within the NPA.

“Task Force’s main focus is on progress and impact. It builds on the work already done within the NPA over the past few years, in collaboration with the Zondo Commission and other law enforcement partners,” a statement by the NPA said.

The NPA and Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI) have stated that the Zondo Commission report not only exposes the quantitative depth of State Capture, but moreover the mechanisms of how it occurred. They highlighted that the commission’s work amounts to a petabyte, roughly 500 billion pages, of investigative and evidentiary material on corruption, fraud and related offences.

The NPA and DPCI stated their immediate mandate in the wake of the report: review the commission’s findings and recommendations, investigate and build cases for criminal prosecution across both public and private sector law-breakers, and freeze and forfeit gains made from these crimes.

However, the road to fulfilling their mandates is paved with difficulties. The statement notes that there is a difference between the evidence presented before the commission and the standard of proof required for the NPA to prosecute. As a result, their own independent criminal investigations must be conducted in order to provide legitimate evidence within the framework of criminal matters, as per South African law of evidence.

Moreover, and by their own admission, the NPA was severely impacted by corruption during the State Capture era too, and is confronted with issues of limited capacity and resources, both financial and human.

To brave these hurdles, the NPA said they will need to rely on aid and collaborations with other official bodies, and are “vigorously exploring options to boost its capacities, capabilities and resources”. 

According to the statement, this will be done through assistance from relevant departments like the National Treasury, support from the Minister of Justice (Ronald Lamola) and Director-General of Justice (Advocate Doctor Mashabane), as well as collaborations with the private sector where appropriate. The NPA  promised to also insulate itself from “perceptions of external influence” with regard to external assistance.

The statement took note of the NPA’s past failings to address state capture, saying “rebuilding the NPA after years of being undermined by state capture actors was never going to be quick or easy”. They emphasised that efforts are being made to address internal issues of prosecutors who have engaged in corruption and criminality, and stated these individuals will be “dealt with effectively and fairly”.

Responding to the Zondo Commission’s first report, the NPA said they have created a task force to review all cases covered in the report, as well as cases already proclaimed by their Investigating Directorate (ID). Importantly, this means that, as per their statement, the DPCI will also be identifying related cases that have been reported and are currently being investigated prior to the commission’s first report, thus adding to the workload.

A meeting of key law enforcement partners will be scheduled, so as to “ensure optimal coordination and collaboration for success, including in the area of asset recovery”. The ID is also in the process of obtaining resources from the Zondo Commission so as to increase the capacity of the NPA.

While the task of cleaning up the ruins of state capture may seem insurmountable, the NPA and DPCI offered the following words of reassurance: “[W]e give you, the people of South Africa, our commitment that, guided by the evidence and the values enshrined in our Constitution, we will not rest until the rule of law once again lights our way in South Africa.”

Only time will tell if the NPA and DPCI are up to the demands of this ‘Herculean’ task, or if South Africa’s recovery from state capture is doomed to a Sisyphean fate. DM  


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    I see that Busa have offered help to the NPA – they will assist with prosecutors. It seems more than likely that other business organizations, and even NGOs will step in with offers of help and this seems the way to go forward, as it is obvious that government organizations simply cannot do the job on their own, lacking manpower, funds , and in many cases , the actual ability. So let the private sector step in and let there be no political interference in that!

    • Coen Gous says:

      Like you Sandra, a very perceptive person, I agree! But my problem is really…where is the private sector apart from talking? Afriforum is very, very, selective. What else is there, apart from many civil groups that just scream and shout, but it still end up in court cases, with no real action. Busa? How in the hell are they going to help? To me, pure empty talk to make us all believe they even exist. You simply do not get capable prosecutors out of a rabit’s hat!

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      Great! If BUSA and Afriforum can get some practical framework going it would be a massive boost for the NPA. Even if they only do one case at a time!

  • Miles Japhet says:

    We are with you all the way. The private sector is ready and willing to help, as we face this corruption and mismanagement epidemic with its devastating effects on the poor.

  • Johan Buys says:

    I’d think their job would be a lot easier if Zondo’s team are seconded to them.

  • Rory Macnamara says:

    certainly agree with comments below but these state bodies knew full well what was coming their way and should have made more effort to be jacked up and not come out with excuses. sorry I just cannot stand the government body’s and their knee jerk reactions. Just get it done now using whatever means – make this a real private/public effort.

  • Dudley Annenberg says:

    Ideally the process should headed up by a consortium of top criminal lawyers from the private sector in order to achieve any inroads but alas that takes money and as the NPA and Hawks are cash strapped already and with one hand tied behind their backs this exercise is doomed for failure

    • Charles Parr says:

      My view is that if the private sector provided R1 billion in funding (as was done with Covid) then it won’t take long for the legal profession to put together teams to tackle the urgent cases. They’ll obviously go for some easy wins to show how effective it is can be but experienced advocates and attorneys can work with the inexperienced prosecutors to give them confidence. There are plenty of good, well qualified lawyers in the NPA that are doing nothing because they’re very poorly managed. Once the precedent has been set the NPA can take this forward with assistance from the private lawyers and advocates when needed. I guess would be a further billions would be needed but if several hundred billion rand can be recovered it would relieve pressure on government and would give notice that this nonsense has to stop otherwise one will definitely sit in a small space between four walls. A portion of the funding should go to improving the Hawks as well. I believe that the poor performance of the Hawks is more a management problem than an ability problem and business can make a huge contribution there.

      In summary, I believe that it is time for all of us to make whatever contribution that we can in order to set this country on the right path to enable economic growth and employment creation to take place.

  • Joe Soap says:

    Setup prosecutors and a court that only deals with corrupt politicians and civil servants. Use the best legal minds in the country for this.

    • Charles Parr says:

      I would say that big commercial cases such as Steinhoff, where specialised legal and forensic ability is required, should be included as well.

  • Memphis Belle says:

    Let’s have some hard action with actual prosecutions NPA words are cheap.

  • Bryan Macpherson says:

    The Government could (should?) approach western governments for assistance with funding and secondments to help the NPA – particularly where the prosecutions involve foreign organisations and their employees.

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      Excellent idea!

    • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

      Funding? The anc rulers have and still receive billions of dollars from foreign organisations and countries. What have they done with it? Sent some of it to Dubai and are paying thousands of incompetent state employees. The rest has been peed against the anc wall. So – in my opinion – bad idea! It will just create more movement for feeding at the trough.
      We pay tax – it must be properly utilised, it’s as simple as that.

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    The NPA needs one big case from the low hanging fruit. Get a conviction with serious jailtime (Hard Labour?) and the pressure will be released to get all their ducks in a row for the more difficult cases.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    The Scorpions should be resurrected and Hawks closed. The Scorpions were terminated for the same reason the High Risk Investigative Unit of SARS, was closed with the Sunday Times Rogue Unit fiction story. They were getting too close to criminals in government. Reinstate those good organisations.

  • Russ H says:

    Outsource the Civil Litigation to private law firms ! Greed and skill enable the elephant to be devoured !

  • John Duncan says:

    The sadness is that the NPA have not been doing their job all along.

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