NPA creates dedicated 'task force' in response to Zondo commission's report
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has established a dedicated “task force” to respond to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture's first report published last week.
A review of all cases covered by the report, including those already proclaimed by its Investigating Directorate (ID), will be conducted.
“It builds on the work done within the NPA over the past few years in collaboration with the Zondo commission and other law enforcement partners,” NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga said on Wednesday.
The ID is central in the NPA’s response to the commission’s reports and is investigating several matters mentioned therein.
“The ID is well-placed to respond to the commission’s reports and has commenced a process to proactively prepare to respond appropriately to the recommendations within its mandate.
“The [directorate] is onboarding resources from the Zondo commission, including the transfer of the digital forensic capacity to the NPA, while taking steps, through National Treasury, to increase its capacity proportionate to the demands emanating from the commission's reports,” said Mhaga.
Internal co-ordination within the NPA, as well as external co-ordination with stakeholders, is being strengthened to ensure effective collaboration and co-ordination in the investigation and prosecution of complex corruption matters and asset recovery.
The Hawks will — as mandated to deal with national priority offences which include corruption, commercial crime and organised crime — take their place alongside partners and respond accordingly to the commission’s recommendations within their mandate.
A team of senior officers is identifying cases that may have been reported and investigated by the respective components of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) before the release of the commission’s report.
This will enable them to take stock of what is already part of the commission’s findings and recommendations which form part of its existing investigations and respond to other recommendations within its mandate but not part of existing investigations, said Mhaga.
The commission’s work gives additional impetus to the process of rebuilding the rule of law after a difficult period, he said.
“The [NPA] and the Hawks are reviewing the commission’s findings and recommendations with a view to investigating and building cases for criminal prosecution against those who broke the law, be they from the public or private sectors.”
Part of the investigations will include freezing and forfeiture of the proceeds of crime.
“It’s important to note the differences between the evidence presented before a commission of inquiry and evidence required to meet the standard of proof for prosecutions. In the case of the latter, criminal investigations will be conducted so that evidence can be presented in accordance with SA law of evidence.
“This is a Herculean task given the volume of materials and the finite human and financial resources available to our law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The NPA is exploring options to boost its capacities, capabilities and resources,” he said.
The institution has been under pressure to deliver and has been criticised for a lack of high-profile corruption convictions.
The NPA is engaging various departments including the National Treasury, the department of public service & administration and the solicitor-general’s office.
Part of the report found that the NPA had failed to respond adequately to state capture and its institutional weaknesses need to be addressed. It attributed its failure to ongoing challenges.
“In this regard, the national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) has acknowledged the challenges facing the NPA, including in its efforts to prosecute high-level corruption matters. The NDPP has also highlighted the associated challenges facing the NPA’s law enforcement counterparts and the affect this has on the NPA’s ability to prosecute complex crimes.”
The NPA suffered a blow in December with the sudden resignation of Hermione Cronje as head of the ID.
Mhaga said it would take time to return the institution to its former glory.
“Rebuilding the NPA after years of being undermined by state capture actors was never going to be quick or easy. Yet, significant progress has been made and the NPA is slowly but surely being rebuilt to enable it to deliver on its mandate,” he said.
Among other priorities, the NPA would focus on internal processes to ensure that criminality or improper conduct was dealt with effectively.
Given the importance of avoiding the future capture of the NPA or any other state institution which brought SA close to financial collapse, it is crucial that the NPA’s de jure and de facto independence be assured, including its relationship with the executive and the manner in which the NPA’s senior leadership is appointed.”
The NPA has not provided time frames for possible prosecutions, but has assured the nation of its commitment to regain public trust.
“As the NPA ramps up the prosecution of those implicated in state capture, it is crucial that its actions are — and are seen to be — independent of any undue influence. Anything short of this will undermine South Africans' trust and confidence in the rule of law, which is already at concerningly low levels.”
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