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NPA head says there was no political will to prosecute high-level corruption cases before 2019

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The national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi said there was no political will in the law enforcement agencies to deal with high-level corruption cases prior to 2019.

Advocate Shamila. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

THE national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi said there was no political will in the law enforcement agencies to deal with high-level corruption cases prior to 2019.

“These cases were not given the attention. Since 2019 there has been focus on these cases,” Batohi said on Tuesday.

She made the statement when the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) gave a follow-up briefing to the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on cases referred to it by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Her statement was sparked by comments made by SIU head Andy Mothibi when he expressed his sense of gratitude at the attention that the matters referred to by the NPA were receiving.

Mothibi said they realised in 2017 that for the SIU to make an impact their referrals needed to be implemented.

He said the memorandum of understanding between the SIU and the NPA was adopted so that they could work together and collaborate.

“We are pleased now that they are being attended to,” Mothibi said, adding that the efforts of the SIU were not futile.

This was after Scopa heard that there were 1087 referrals of suspects from the SIU that were still under investigation by the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) as at March 10.

The number had dropped slightly from the 1,098 recorded in February.

Deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions Rodney de Kock had described the process followed by the NPA to refer the cases from the SIU to its regions and the assignment of prosecutors and investigators from the DPCI.

He said the NPA had declined to prosecute in 256 matters as at March 10.

De Kock said there were 57 matters in court, 41 guilty verdicts, 23 people were in court, three matters were referred to the SIU and two matters each were waiting for a decision to prosecute and warrants of arrest.

His report also showed that 460 cases were still under investigation, and the NPA had declined to prosecute in 93 cases.

There were 35 matters in court, 10 guilty verdicts were recorded, three other accused were in court, three referrals were made to the SIU, while two warrants of arrest were issued and two cases await the NPA’s decision.

Referring to the NPA decision not to prosecute, De Kock said this was because there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution.

“Prosecutors are under an obligation to evaluate evidence after an investigation and make an objective assessment whether there is sufficient evidence or whether there is a reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution,” he said.

Batohi said the memorandum of understanding between the SIU, the NPA and SAPS was hugely important.

The 2017 memorandum of understanding with the SIU was being reviewed and it needed to be signed by the SAPS.

“We work in the NPA with colleagues in DPCI and SIU. We work on a database to collect all referrals in one space so that between the DPCI, SIU and NPA we have all the same understanding.”

Batohi also said they were looking at developing a monitoring mechanism with regard to SIU referrals that were sent to the NPA and DPCI.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said collaboration should be the name of the game between the law enforcement agencies given the constraints of resources, including but not limited to finances.

“The prioritisation of matters in itself is an indicator of seriousness we have, not that some are more important than others,” he said.

Hlengwa said the prosecution should bite at the highest level of the political echelon of the country and not leave the impression that the big fish were not prosecuted.

He also said the courts were not helping as cases took years to reach the court roll.

“It is totally unacceptable that cases are stuck on the roll for the longest of the time and by the time they are actually heard it is what I term cosmetic prosecution without the real prospect of recoveries on the state, among others,” Hlengwa said.

Political Bureau

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