The testimony given over the past days by Angelo Agrizzi to the Zondo Commission has accomplished at least two things: It has again shown the use of the Zondo Commission in introducing sunlight to the previously murky world of a parallel state beyond even the startling revelations contained in Jacques Pauw’s book, The President’s Keepers, and second, it emphasises the critical tasks awaiting the newly appointed head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Shamila Batohi, when she assumes the reins of the NPA on 1 February.
It goes without saying that the testimony given by Agrizzi needs to be tested under cross-examination and by supporting documentation at the very least. With that qualification in mind, the evidence in the public domain points to an archipelago of corruption and fraud that challenges the scale of the Gupta ventures and unquestionably points to a parallel process of governance of the country.
While citizens thought that the governance of the affairs of state was run in terms of the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary, however poorly performing the first two institutions were for the past decade and more, an intricate previously hidden system appeared to operate, run by families who were close to Jacob Zuma.
So the country has seen a script written by Mario Puzo with evidence given by a character invented by Damon Runyon. But this is no work of fiction; it is the narrative of a dream destroyed, of a denial of expectations legitimately held by millions of poor citizens and of a constitutional scheme urinated upon by a vast cast of corrupted beneficiaries, all within less than three decades of the birth of democracy.
What is now to be done? The objective must be to restore the constitutional state, assert the principle of accountability of the government duly elected to serve all the people of South Africa and rebuild key institutions of the state, in particular, the NPA, the South African Revenue Service and the Hawks. While the Zondo Commission has done excellent work, it is a time-consuming process and cannot do more than make recommendations — hopefully sooner than later, by way of interim reports.
But the county requires urgent action. It has become apparent from the Agrizzi’s testimony that the NPA was shaped into a pliant institution, the mandate of which was to subvert legal accountability, few exceptions notwithstanding. Agrizzi’s testimony reveals the extent of the NPA/ Hawks rot and the huge challenge that awaits Batohi. She will need to clean out the stables, and that, in turn, will require reliable intelligence from those within the NPA who share her vision of an independent institution, to know precisely who is corrupted within.
From the testimony given by Agrizzi, it appears as if there still exists documentary evidence that can corroborate his version. All of this evidence, including computers, emails, text messages and recordings need to be secured by the NPA immediately. Batohi must be given time to settle into the new job, but within a reasonable period (months, not years) the public needs to know that targeted prosecutions are going to take place.
Agrizzi’s testimony, plus documentary support thereof, may well be enough, together with all relevant bank records to put sufficient pressure on corrupted individuals who are particularly politically vulnerable to co-operate with the prosecution. Although s204 of the Criminal Procedure Act envisages the possibility of discharge from specified charges, ultimately it is the court and not the NPA which makes the decision to discharge in terms of the requirements of the section. But it is legally possible to induce co-operation from an accomplice; hence the possibility of employing Robert Mueller-type tactics in this country.
The acting Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service, Mark Kingon, has understandably refused to comment on possible SARS action against individual taxpayers, but, given the allegedly large payments made by Bosasa and the Guptas to a range of office bearers, ministers of state and other politicians, a comprehensive SARS audit of all people mentioned who were recipients of ill-gotten gains will doubtless prove a very fruitful line of inquiry.
According to Agrizzi, most of the action taken by Bosasa to buy influence was done by way of cash. So the attempt to use the banking system to test the veracity of the Agrizzi’s testimony concerning payments may prove somewhat problematic. Hence the need for lifestyle audits to be conducted on all those so named.
By the way, if one is innocent, it could be expected that the falsely accused person would invite such an audit. It certainly could show whether the person, his or her family trust or related company holds unexplained assets.
The country has waited far too long for the criminal justice system to swing into action. If by the end of 2019 no meaningful action has been generated by the NPA/Hawks, it may well be a case of “bye-bye” to the values of a constitutional democracy. DM