The Hawks are 'deeply compromised' on Guptas: ISS
Strategic leaks of information relating to the ongoing state capture probe and the Gupta family to various media houses over the past few weeks are a sign of how deeply compromised law enforcement agencies are in South Africa.
This according to the Institute for Security Studies’ Gareth Newham said that conflicting reports over where the Guptas were‚ who was on the Hawks’ radar and who would and would not be prosecuted were a symptom of political influence in the justice cluster.
“I think it really speaks to how deeply compromised the police‚ the Hawks‚ NPA and other agencies actually are and how much has to be done to strengthen those institutions‚” he said when asked for his take on the number of differing reports over action by the Hawks and the NPA.
“It does seem like there are strategic leaks – it’s just what happens when institutions are severely compromised and individuals are placed at those institutions for particular political purposes‚" he said when asked if contradicting reports in the media were a result of strategic communication to keep suspects in the dark‚ or simply a result of the Hawks bungling the probe.
Some examples of the confusion include:
- January 16: Acting NPA serious crimes unit head Advocate Malini Govender denies that any warrants of arrest have been issued in relation to state capture during a live interview on eNCA. NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku also denies the reports to the media.
- On Wednesday this week acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata told parliament the Hawks presented the Estina docket to the NPA in November last year and had been ready to arrest the suspects at that time. A warrant for Ajay Gupta‚ on an unrelated matter‚ is issued on February 12.
- February 16‚ former minister of police Fikile Mbalula issues a statement declaring Ajay Gupta a fugitive from justice for failing to hand himself over on charges relating to the Estina Dairy Farm project.
- On February 23‚ Matakata confirms during a media briefing in Pretoria that Ajay Gupta was not being sought in connection with Estina‚ but rather on an unrelated matter.
- At the same briefing Matakata said the Hawks had agreed with lawyers for Ajay Gupta that he would hand himself over. However, travel records obtained by journalists have shown that Ajay Gupta had left the country early in February.
Newham said the ISS relied on media reports to paint an accurate picture of current events‚ but that this task was always more difficult due to how information was leaked from the justice cluster - in particular‚ the large number of conflicting reports over suspects in the state capture probe.
“You have people who want to be sources to journalists while others will selectively give out information such as in the Ntlemeza drama and now state capture‚” he said.
Newham also said that serious questions had to be asked over the delay in the arrests of the Gupta brothers and Duduzane Zuma.
“Following on what has been said by the Hawks in relation to their investigation into state capture involving the Guptas we know there should have been certainly sufficient evidence for the arrests last year already.”
Acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata has publicly stated that the Hawks had handed over the Estina dairy farm docket to the National Prosecuting Authority in November last year.
“Those dockets I imagine because they were closed and the information contained therein was used to enable the AFU to get to court and also enabled them to get the warrants in February.
“That means they would have had enough information to make arrests basically sometime in 2016‚ while the Guptas were still in the country and Duduzane Zuma was still in the country‚” Newham said.
“So the question needs to be asked: why did they wait?”
Newham said that standard practice was for arrests to be made as soon as there was enough evidence to bring a person before a court even if more investigation still needed to be done.
Factors such as if the suspect is wealthy‚ has dual citizenship or business interests overseas‚ travels frequently or has a private jet‚ would carry weight in determining if a person was a flight risk. If these factors added up‚ as they do with the Guptas‚ arrests would be made far sooner and strict bail conditions applied.
“Why on earth did they not make arrests long ago‚ given that every aspect of the Guptas suggested flight risk? Then we have pictures of Ajay looking at one of the mines quite recently. There just seems to be a remarkable lack of appetite to act on information they have to ensure they can make arrests‚ present the evidence to a court and ask for very stringent bail conditions.”
Matakata on Tuesday told the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice that the Hawks had indeed been ready to effect arrests in November but that the process had been “hindered” by the NPA.