The South African Federation of Trade Unions welcomes Shamila Batohi on her first day as National Director of Public Prosecutions and wishes her well as she faces what she herself has identified as “unprecedented’ challenges -to tackle the levels of crime and corruption in South Africa which are among the highest in the world.
Violent crime, gang warfare and drug trafficking, particularly in the poorest communities, are making families prisoners in their own homes and driving thousands of young South Africans into a life of addiction, violence and hopelessness.
Corruption and the capture of state institutions have led to the pillaging of the country’s wealth which as played a major role in worsening the already desperate economic crisis with world record levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality
The revelations emerging in the three public inquiries now taking place, into state capture, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) are all adding new challenges to the already long list of urgent issues requiring Ms Batohi’s immediate attention. Many more are surely in the pipeline.
The evidence presented to the state capture inquiry, the latest being those involving Bosasa, paint a picture of a company which spread its tentacles into every corner of the state, including education, catering, database management, prisons and juvenile detention centres, amassing more than R12-billion in just over ten years.
Bosasa has now to be added to cases being investigated by the Hawks related to the Guptas’ state capture project that involved more than R40 billion being plundered from the state.
And, as SAFTU has been arguing, this never involved a small gang of politicians, public officials and private firms, in league with the Gupta family. It is far more widespread and almost routine. Bosasa’s blatant issuing of bribes in special bags was as an almost daily ritual.
Corruption is far more widely spread throughout both the public and private sectors than previously admitted or reported in the media. It has led to the bankruptcy of state-owned enterprises like Eskom and SAA, put thousands of jobs in jeopardy and undermined institutions established under the constitution to protect civil rights.
It is because corruption has become known to be so commonplace and routine that one of the first questions the new NDPP will have to answer is why no-one has yet been prosecuted, despite the mountain of prima facie evidence already contained in the former Public Protector’s ‘The State of Capture’ report, the SACC’s ‘Betrayal of the Dream’, OUTA’s ‘President Caught in the Act’, Gupta emails, Jacques Pauw’s ‘The President’s Keepers’ and now the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.
Part of the answer to that question is emerging from the other inquiry now being held into the fitness to hold office of of the now-suspended Deputy Director of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Nomgcobo Jiba, and suspended Special Director of Public Prosecutions Lawrence Mrwebi.
The inquiry has heard from Willie Hofmeyr, the deputy NDPP, that many within the NPA at first thought at first that Jiba was a “capable manager” but that over time concerns grew, particularly about the wrongful prosecution of Johan Booysen.
He said in an affidavit that “A very concerning development trend that emerged under Jiba, and was almost insitutionalised by [Shaun] Abrahams, was to prosecute those who were perceived as obstacles to corruption and the capture of the state”.
At the same time the NPA was refusing to prosecute those who were known to be corruptly looting public resources, both the private companies like Bosasa who were bribing politicians and officials to win contracts or those receiving these, and individual like Richard Nduli. That explains why charges were withdrawn against the people behind the Vrede dairy farm scandal.
So one of Shamila Batohi’s first priorities has to be to clean out the NPA itself, and all the other state institutions which have been, or are still being exposed as being steeped in corruption – SARS, the PIC, the SIU, national and provincial government departments (especially Correctional Services) and municipalities.
SAFTU demands that Batohi moves as quickly as possible, together with the Hawks, to open cases against all those many individuals and companies against whom there is strong prima facie evidence. This need not wait until the Commission has finalised its report, which could be in two years time.
There must be no exceptions, no matter who the culprits are, and those found guilty in the courts must be give exemplary sentences to show that South Africa is serious in fighting and defeating corruption
SAFTU also calls for the Commission’s mandate be extended to cover all forms of corruption and related crimes – tax-evasion, price-fixing, tender collusion and laundering money into tax-havens. Both the Steinhoff and now Bosasa actions have given a glimpse into the way the ‘respectable’ capitalist exploiters have acted no differently from the Guptas, even if not quite so blatantly.
Corruption is a despicable crime but also an inevitable result of a capitalist system which rewards and praises those who can get as rich as possible as quickly as possible, at the expense of the majority who are being robbed by these hyenas and have to suffer from lower living standards and deteriorating public services.