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THE GATHERING 2024

Lack of State Capture prosecutions ignites fiery debate — it’s ‘unacceptable’, panellist declares

Lack of State Capture prosecutions ignites fiery debate — it’s ‘unacceptable’, panellist declares
Anton du Plessis and Judge Dennis Davis speak on the crime and corruption panel at The Gathering Twenty Twenty Four on 14 March 2024. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

One of the heated debates at Daily Maverick’s The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four, held on Thursday at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, centred on the fact that none of the politicians identified in the State Capture report has gone on trial.

Judge Dennis Davis, who chaired this panel with Daily Maverick’s investigative journalist and author Caryn Dolley, found it frustrating that not a single high-profile politician has been charged.

The panel also included Anton du Plessis, the deputy national director of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont, DA shadow minister for justice Glynnis Breytenbach and Correctional Services spokesperson Chrispin Phiri.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Gathering 2024

On a question concerning whether one major participant in State Capture was before court, Du Plessis explained that the NPA has in the past five years, convicted “700 senior government officials and enrolled more than 200 cases against some of the most senior public and private officials in the country”. The NPA was also trying to rebuild itself while trying to deal with 850,000 cases annually.

“What South Africa wants now is conviction in State Capture matters… that is not everything that accountability is about,” he said.

“We are moving forward; the progress is difficult and slow, but in a constitutional democracy, convictions don’t come upfront in the process, they come at the end of the process.”

Of vital importance, Du Plessis reiterated, was that the NPA had to follow the evidence and not succumb to pressure.

Davis interjected, saying, “we don’t have time, so the question is when is this going to happen? Name just one of the people who already ruined this country who is before the courts.”

Breytenbach echoed that none of the top people named in the Zondo State Capture report was on trial.

She agreed that prosecuting complex commercial matters takes time but said at least one or two of those named should have been convicted already. “The time taken is unacceptable. What the people of South Africa want to see is bums in jail and it is simply not happening,” she explained.

Michael Beaumont, Chrispin Phiri, Glynnis Breytenbach, Anton du Plessis, Judge Dennis Davis and Caryn Dolley at The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Michael Beaumont, Chrispin Phiri and Glynnis Breytenbach on the crime and corruption panel. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

crime corruption state capture

Chrispin Phiri speaks on the crime and corruption panel. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Du Plessis underlined that 200 high-profile people are before the courts — former ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and former president Jacob Zuma.

The spotlight was also placed on the independence of the NPA, which was raised by Beaumont. He said there are a lot of good people in uniform and in the NPA but their problem is a lack of political will.

Asked by Davis whether he was suggesting that the NPA wasn’t independent, he replied absolutely, citing that it relies on politicians to appoint its senior leadership, and for budgets.

“If we had a functional criminal justice system, it would be against their interest. The unity of the ANC, a functional criminal justice system is not in the interest of the unity of the ANC.”

Du Plessis said the independence of the NPA to make decisions about prosecution is unquestionable and the current leadership of the NPA is not beholden to any political party.

“Where you are right, is on the question of the NPA’s what we call operational and financial independence. We are moving towards that … we’ve just created a new investigative directorate through a Bill and that Bill is gonna give us back something really important that you need to tackle these complex crimes, and that’s a prosecution-led investigation model,” he said.

“In other words, prosecutors will work together with investigators that report to the prosecution head – that is the model that we’ve seen worked in the past; it’s the model that works internationally. And we fought very hard to get this Bill through Parliament. It’s now been signed off by National Council of Provinces. We gonna go back to a situation [where] we have [a] prosecution-led investigation, and we are gonna work with the private sector and with everyone else to bring the skills that Glynnis speaks about into the NPA.”

Davis interjected, saying the NPA wasn’t sufficiently independent because it was still anchored effectively by political control, and the notion is that this should be an utterly and independent body.

Regarding crime intelligence, Breytenbach made a sweeping comment: “I don’t think it exists at the moment. It was completely destroyed by Richard Mdluli. He used the Covid-19 fund as his own bank personal account.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

Mdluli and co-accused Heine Barnard (former Crime Intelligence supply chain manager) and Solomon Lazarus (former chief financial officer of the State Security Agency) face 15 charges of fraud, corruption and contravening the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act for allegedly looting Crime Intelligence’s secret service account between 2008 and 2012.

Caryn Dolley speaks during The Gathering Twenty Twenty-Four. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Other allegations involve money used for private trips to Singapore and China, the leasing of Mdluli’s private residence to the state to pay his bond, and the personal use of witness protection property.

On the extradition of the Guptas, Dolley went straight for the jugular and asked Phiri to give an update on where they were.

He responded that “as far as we know” the Guptas are in Dubai, adding that extraditions like this are not always successful. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Colin Braude says:

    Two cliches spring to mind:
    “Justice delayed is justice denied”
    “Justice must not only be done, it must be *seen* to be done”

    NPA is failing on both measures in respect of state capture.
    To be fair, the ANC has defunded all the institutions that might hold it accountable. But the NPA has a legacy of political inactivism to overcome.
    Our courts, which permit JZ783’s (and others’ — the Tigron case has become SA’s own Jarndyce and Jarndyce ) stalingradding and vexatious “SLAPP” prosecutions, are also at fault.

  • Laurence Erasmus says:

    This article is substandard and very poorly written. DM you should be ashamed to publish something so badly written!

  • Jan De Ruyter says:

    Whenever I see the name Anton du Plessis, I reach for the salt.

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