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