South Africa


Brian Molefe & Anoj Singh arrests: SA’s return to Justiceland will take an excruciatingly long time

Brian Molefe & Anoj Singh arrests: SA’s return to Justiceland will take an excruciatingly long time
Regiments Capital directors Niven Pillay and Litha Nyhonhya, former Transnet chief executive Brian Molefe and former chief financial officer Anoj Singh appear at the Palm Ridge Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on 29 August 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamadla)

The past few days have seen signs of renewed life in our criminal justice system and the institutions that support it, but for many millions of people in SA, there is still no evidence of the criminal justice system working for them.

A series of high-profile Gupta-linked arrests, the continued apparent success of the Special Investigating Unit, and the SA Revenue Service (SARS) investigation into the Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation’s gargantuan tax evasion (up to R3-billion) show that some accountability is returning to South Africa’s criminal justice system.

But, for many millions of people in our country, there is still no evidence of the criminal justice system working for them. Instead, the merciless data show that they are more likely to be victims of violent crimes than during any time over the past 10 years, revealing the still massive underlying police weakness and the emasculation of our state.

On Monday, it was confirmed that the Hawks had arrested Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh. Both were found by the Zondo Commission to have been involved in State Capture and to have manipulated contracts for locomotives.

This appeared to make good on the promise from the head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Shamila Batohi, that there would be arrests for serious crimes before the end of September.

ANC NEC member arrests? Not yet

Of course, it is not known at this point whether these arrests are the beginning of a long series or the endpoint for now. It may be important to note that the Hawks have not arrested a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee since the Zondo report was published. That’s despite the devastating findings against Mosebenzi Zwane, Bongani Bongo, Sfiso Buthelezi and others.

On Friday last week, SARS announced that it had been allowed to take control of the bank accounts and assets of the Gold Leaf Tobacco Corporation.

It then emerged that at least R3-billion had been removed from the country illegally. And perhaps more startling than that was the revelation that bank transactions had been “deleted”.

R3bn ‘fraudulent, intentional tax evasion’: An in-depth account of how Sars busted tobacco & gold plunder network

The fact that SARS was able to get enough legally admissible information to convince a judge to allow it to take control of these assets shows that it is capable of dealing with complex and difficult money flows and that it can enforce the law when international criminals break it.

At the same time, there is even some accountability for people who have held very high office.

Last week, also on Friday, the Asset Forfeiture Unit was able to seize assets belonging to the former acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane.

He and others are accused of involvement in the “blue lights” tender saga, which saw top people in the police leadership violating tender regulations, allegedly for their own benefit.

At the same time, the past three years have seen numerous investigations by the Special Investigating Unit, with findings that have had political consequences. It is clear this organisation too is now having an impact.

Exposed and tarnished by the Digital Vibes scandal, Zweli Mkhize goes down fighting

Taken together, all these examples suggest that there is cause to celebrate, that the rule of law is becoming stronger.

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However, while these developments may be an important moment for some to celebrate, the recent past has shown just how long it can take for a trial to actually start.

Both the Zandile Gumede case and the Ace Magashule trial involve alleged corruption in government. Gumede was arrested in May 2019, and only last week did she plead not guilty to the indictment. Magashule was arrested in November 2020, but there too no witness evidence has yet been heard.

Arrest warrant issued for ANC SG Ace Magashule over Free State asbestos saga

Violent vigilantism

These arrests are an important first step, especially as our criminal justice system has been consistently weakened, coinciding with a sharp increase in violent vigilantism since at least 2013.

It is sometimes forgotten in the suburban conversations about crime how many acts of vigilantism now occur daily. As the Institute for Security Studies’ Lizette Lancaster has noted, the numbers are scary. From the 2018/19 financial year to the 2019/20 financial year, the number of murders attributed to vigilantism went up by more than 50%. Things have only become worse since.

This is, in part, driven by the massive increase in the number of murders. In June the SA Police Service released crime statistics for the first quarter of the year, which showed the murder rate was up by 22%. By any measure, this is indeed a frightening number, with way too often little or no accountability.

‘Construction mafia’

Meanwhile, organisations that used to be known as the “construction mafia” are now halfway through a process in which they appear likely to be able to legitimise their demands.

To be clear, these are groups which used violence to extort money from construction firms in KwaZulu-Natal since 2015. Then they spread to other provinces. And now one of their leaders, Malusi Zondi, says they have rebranded as the Black Business Foundation and are keen to get involved in business.

The scale of the damage caused by them was recently laid out by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. It spells out how extensive and disruptive these criminal groups have been.

So far, it seems, they are succeeding in their bid to enter formal business, and as News24’s Carol Paton reports, Zondi’s group even won contracts to provide face masks to the Department of Health during the pandemic.

By using violence, these groups have been able to amass money and political power and force their way into legitimacy.

This is not hidden from view — it is common knowledge playing out in public.

This is surely a complete victory for violence and a complete defeat for the rule of law.

All of this suggests that despite the important progress in prosecuting people accused of corruption and the possible improving impact this will have on our politics, for many people, violent crime and the threat of violent crime are actually likely to get worse.

As will the incentive to indulge in violent crime.

Arresting the apex corrupt politicians and their henchmen will certainly help, but the road to any kind of normality remains South Africa’s distant dream. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris 123 says:

    When did you last see a SAPS vehicle actually patrolling? Watched a Vice documentary on YouTube on how private security in Durban have taken over police functions. Maybe that’s the way to go, defund the police and give it to private enterprise, they definitely doing better and without usual tender corruption.

  • Roy Haines says:

    I feel that we live in a constant Catch 22 situation. We obviously need to recruit more properly qualified (not cadres) people into our judicial system, so that justice can be more speedily achieved and the vast number of crooks can be behind bars, but the ANC government will cry that there are not the funds available. Why? because they have been stolen due to the vast corruption allowed and encouraged under the same ANC government.

  • jeyezed says:

    It is convictions that we need to see. Arrests make little difference. If there is enough evidence for an arrest, why can’t the trial begin soon afterwards? Other countries do not have these interminable gaps between arrest and conviction.

    And what about the seizures of assets? When and how will the proceeds of these seizures be converted into benefits for the taxpayers?

    • Lesley Young says:

      Agreed. I rely on private security. The police don’t even know of the existence of our road.

    • Lesley Young says:

      And what happens to all the Lamborghinis, Ferraris and big 4×4 BMWs and Mercedes? Are they given back? Shared out amongst cadres? I’ve always wanted a Lamborghini!

  • Sam Joubs says:

    OK, so we have had relatively high level arrests. Now what? As long as the NPA keeps on picking the low hanging fruit to justify its existence we are going to be in exactly the same situation next year this time.

  • Cunningham Ngcukana says:

    To decisively deal with corruption we need an independent law enforcement that is not under the control of the politicians like in Brazil. Transnet has been the epicentre of state capture along with PRASA (Dipuo Peters is sitting in the committee that is determining the fitness of the Public Protector when according to the Zondo Commission she is unfit and incompetent public representative). We need like in the Brazilian carwash arrest of Ministers in their office and parliamentarians in their offices starting with Mantashe and Peters . The destruction of an institution critical to the economy is treason in particular when
    foreign governments like China through state banks are involved. These people who have hobble a critical logistics company that is very central to the economy are traitors. One hopes Godfrey Lebeya is not beholden to the ANC and Shamila Batohi appointed through a process chaired by one of the chief architects of state capture Jeff Radebe (responsible for hollowing out the NPA) will have the courage to go for those who are in Luthuli House. We are not fools when the ANC did a whitewash by appointing a tainted state capturer, Jeff Radebe to deal with implicated people in the Zondo Commision to white wash it. Thuli Madonsela said that if you want state capture destroy the NPA and the judiciary and it is what Radebe did. Cyril knows it but are abound together by Motsepe ties.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    The only way to change is through a complete political change. Get rid of the ANC and do not give the “little boys in red pajamas” a look in.

  • Johan Buys says:

    this gang reads like the ideal ones to do a deal with. They know where all the skeletons are buried. Say one year off the sentences they deserve, per billion recovered.

  • Marco Savio Savio says:

    Why does it appear as if the wheels of justice turn faster (and arrests made) if you are not politically/senior ANC connected? The halls of justice seems to have a faint ‘smell’ blowing through them……

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