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Law enforcement agencies tout to Parliament a ‘turning of the tide’ on SOE corruption investigations

Law enforcement agencies tout to Parliament a ‘turning of the tide’ on SOE corruption investigations
SAA aircraft. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jacques Stander) | An attache to Chief of the South African National Defence Force holds the new SS77 general purpose machine gun manufactured by South African arms company Denel. (Photo: EPA / NIC BOTHMA) | Water from a tap. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jacques Stander) |(Illustrative image | Sources: Denel logo | EPA / KIM LUDBROOK)

Freezing orders worth billions, high-profile arrests, cases on the court rolls and upcoming arrests were some of the successes touted by law enforcement agencies during a parliamentary session on Wednesday. However, key challenges still remain.

“The tide is indeed turning,” said Advocate Shamila Batohi, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), during a session before Parliament’s public accounts watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). On Wednesday, the NPA, the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) briefed Scopa on all their investigations at state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

The three agencies have worked together on many cases, including some of those stemming from the Zondo Commission. Other measures include collaboration and task forces. With collaboration and increased capacities at enforcement agencies, Batohi said she felt “the country is certainly going to see a lot more cases coming through”. 

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) 

During the briefing, the Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions,  Rodney de Kock, said: “Prasa is going to receive a lot of attention from all of us” in reference to joint efforts of the law enforcement agencies. One of the key cases to be looked at is the Prasa tall trains saga. De Kock said this was one of the “priority matters” for the agencies. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Groundhog Day à la ANC — Prasa Chair Leonard Ramatlakane’s tall train lies

Currently, the Hawks have 21 cases involving Prasa: three are awaiting placement on court rolls, 17 are under investigation, and one has been finalised. According to the Hawks, 857 statements have been obtained in the 17 cases under investigation, which involve a total of R6.8-billion. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “NPA mum on appointment of special team to investigate wrongdoing at Prasa

The NPA had three matters referred to it, all of which are under investigation. But the NPA pointed out several challenges at Prasa, including documents that must be obtained, time lapses — in some cases, of more than 10 years — since offences were committed, and locating several witnesses. Another issue was that potential witnesses were initially reluctant to provide assistance as they could have been complicit in illegal activities.  

Eskom 

The Hawks are investigating 96 cases involving Eskom — nine in the Eastern Cape, four in the Free State, 41 in Gauteng, one in Limpopo, 39 in Mpumalanga and two in the Western Cape. Cases include possession of stolen property, tampering with essential infrastructure, fraud, corruption and copper cable theft. 

At Eskom, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), a unit within the NPA, has several freezing orders in place, including in: 

  • The matter of Eskom/France Hlakudi and others — related to the manipulation of contracts for condensers at Kusile Power Station. The AFU restrained R1.49-billion on 20 April 2021, with the criminal matter still ongoing.
  • The matter of Eskom/Tegeta/Optimum Coal Mine and Terminal — where the AFU obtained a preservation order in the amount of R3.975-billion on 23 March 2022. That forfeiture process is ongoing. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Asset Forfeiture Unit is hitting criminals where it hurts most – nearly R6bn seized this year”

Denel 

The Hawks have two cases at the state arms manufacturer, involving the theft of intellectual property and corruption. According to the Hawks, 33 statements have been taken in the two cases, which involve an amount of R4.3-billion. 

The NPA has a Denel deal in sight, which will be authorised in the third quarter of 2022/2023 for investigation. 

Transnet 

The Hawks have 25 cases on hand at the state-owned freight agency: 13 pending at court, four submitted for decision and eight under investigation. Current cases on the court rolls range from theft of copper cables to damaging essential infrastructure. 

In Gauteng and Mpumalanga, 59 statements have been obtained in seven cases under investigation, involving R63-million, which include fraud, corruption, damage to infrastructure and theft of fuel. 

One of the matters enrolled by the NPA on the recommendation of the SIU was that of a Transnet transaction adviser contract, where Transnet appointed and paid transactional advisers Regiments and Trillian without following proper procedures. Those involved include Trillian, McKinsey, Regiments Capital, Transnet officials and members of the Transnet board. The matter, involving 13 contracts totalling R1.9-billion, was initially enrolled on 27 May.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “More arrests expected in corruption case against Gama and other ex-Transnet officials


Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations


Department of Water and Sanitation 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Watergate – Whistle-blower lifts lid on ‘probably the most perfect example of ANC State Capture’” 

The Hawks have 15 cases on hand related to the Department of Water and Sanitation. One case is pending at court, two were submitted for decision, nine are under investigation and two have been finalised. They range from fraud and money laundering to procurement fraud. 

Nineteen matters involving the department were referred to the NPA, with 10 referrals received in 2022. The Lepelle Northern Water Board case was on the top 10 priority list for monitoring progress. 

The NPA is proceeding with a court case involving the department. In September, several accused were charged in an ongoing probe related to Mhlathuze Water, a bulk water utility, which involved about R37-million. The case was postponed to 6 December. The NPA said six people were arrested, including Nonhlanhla Mkhize, the director-general in the KZN Premier’s Office.

Read more in Daily Maverick:KZN Premier top chief gets bail in fraud and intimidation case

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) 

The Hawks have two matters at the SABC: one is pending and the other is under investigation. One of the cases dates back to 2018. The Hawks said an accused who worked at the SABC applied for or requested travel and accommodation expenses for official trips while knowing they were for a personal vacation. The case has been postponed to 25 November for trial proceedings. The loss to the SABC was R18,290. 

In the other case, there are two charges of fraud and corruption to the value of R18,290,000, with four statements having been taken so far. 

The SABC has had seven matters referred to the NPA, with one in court, two declined prosecutions and four under investigation. 

Vetting — a ‘perennial issue’ 

During the meeting, the head of the Hawks, General Godfrey Lebeya, said the Hawks had plans for more appointments — but vetting by the State Security Agency (SSA) was an issue. Lebeya said 17 officials needed top-level security clearances, but none had yet been provided by the SSA. 

While Lebeya was speaking, committee chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa interrupted him, saying vetting was a “perennial issue”. He asked the committee to make a note of it.  

Lebeya said some members of the management team could not perform specific duties while waiting for their security clearance. The Hawks had hired replacements for retirees three months early in a bid for staff to get their clearances timeously.

Earlier on Wednesday, the committee had a briefing with the Parliamentary Legal Services on the refusals of the minister and deputy minister in the Presidency responsible for the SSA to appear before the committee to provide an update on the vetting of Eskom officials.  

Batohi also spoke on vetting and said the NPA had conducted preliminary vetting while waiting for SSA vetting. “If we can do that, we can assist the SSA,” she said. 

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Hlengwa confirmed the committee would write to the minister in the Presidency to “inform him of the legal opinion and to request him to appear before Scopa on this matter on Wednesday, 30 November 2022. Should the minister refuse to report to Scopa, the committee will exercise its right to initiate the process to summon the minister to provide the information requested.”  

Hlengwa added that Prasa would be on the agenda for the committee on 29 November, while another meeting would be scheduled with the law enforcement agencies for next year, around April or May. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gavin Craythorne says:

    “On Wednesday, the NPA, the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) briefed Scopa on all their investigations at state-owned enterprises (SOEs).” This is not accurate as you make no mention of the Alexkor investigation under Presidential Proclamation R45. It puzzles me that the media seem so reluctant to include Alexkor in the SOE’s that were captured. Pravin Gordhan has himself lamented the capture of Alexkor so why the kid-gloves?

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