Corruption cases are a top priority

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi, says fighting corruption is the top priority of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

The NPA head was updating Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) on cases referred to the NPA by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). 

“The work of the SIU is just a fraction of the work, even that relating to corruption that the NPA does with so many priorities. But we have decided that the top priority for the next six months is going to be focusing on corruption. The wheels of justice are beginning to turn with regard to corruption. We are beginning to move slightly more quickly,” she said on Tuesday.

As a result of SIU referrals, the NPA currently has 41 cases on court rolls and there have been 41 guilty pleas. There are 23 other accused persons facing charges in courts, eight warrants of arrest have been authorised and there are a further two matters awaiting a decision.

Batohi reflected on her time in office saying it been an “extremely challenging three years” and acknowledged that the NPA would have preferred to have been “more down the line” when it comes to the number of successful prosecutions.

“What is very clear is that even though we’re not where we want to be, we are far from where we were. There’s been a lot of work that has gone [on] in the past three years and there’s still a lot of work to happen.

“We have a full leadership team at the helm of the NPA and a leadership team that is strongly committed to the rule of law, to accountability and to make sure that we hold people accountable not just for corruption but for all of the…different crime types that the NPA has to deal with,” she said.

Case referrals

The NPA head highlighted that although the SIU is mandated to refer cases to the NPA, the authority itself is not legally mandated to do investigations.

“That is something that we need to look at changing in terms of legislation because the NPA does not do criminal investigations although now with the proclamation of the ID (Investigating Directorate) there are some matters that the SIU has been seized with that the ID is dealing with where they have a mandate to investigate criminally.

“But most of the matters referred to the NPA creates the impression that they are ready for prosecutions and that the NPA must now take a decision to prosecute but that is not the case. As much as the work of the SIU is very important in terms of the link between the work that they did and the criminal investigations that must follow, basically what we do is forward these matters to the [Hawks] to investigate,” she said.

Batohi told the committee that it is “critically important” for different role players within the criminal justice system – including the SIU, the NPA itself and the Hawks – to be “pulling in the same direction” in order to further entrench the rule of law.

“We certainly need better coordination. We need better alignment of our performance indicators and various processes. We do need to all act with a joint sense of urgency.

“The rule of law in South Africa, I think, is on life support at the moment and we need to address this now. In order to do this in the criminal justice system, we need to draw on each other’s strengths and we need to respect the legal mandates of all of us within the criminal justice system which are very different but complimentary,” she said.

Turning to the NPA’s Investigating Directorate, Batohi said the unit is heading into an exciting new era and will be ramping up the fight against corruption.

“As the president said at SONA [State of the Nation Address], the ID is now poised to deliver on its mandate. It has been a very difficult and tough time trying to capacitate and set up the ID. But the fact that the Zondo Commission is now winding up its work…a number of resources are being migrated to the ID which will certainly boost its capacity to be able to deal with these cases much more effectively,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za

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