The presidency on Tuesday denied that the anti-corruption task team (ACTT) had been disbanded.
In a statement, the presidency said statements by Democratic Alliance leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille were “incorrect and baseless”.
“South Africa has a strong anti-corruption architecture,” President Jacob Zuma said in a statement.
“With co-operation between government, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and political parties, we will be able to make a difference in eradicating corruption, which is what our people expect of us.”
The presidency said that the ACTT was fully operational and had been strengthened under the leadership of the anti-corruption inter-ministerial committee led by Minister in the Presidency for Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe.
‘Not serious about graft’
On Monday, writing in her newsletter SA Today, Zille said the “dismantling” of the ACTT was evidence the government was not serious about graft.
Zille said the task team was launched in 2010 to fast-track high priority corruption investigations.
“But the ease with which he pulled the plug on them in the space of just a few weeks, exposes [President] Jacob Zuma’s hypocrisy when it comes to tackling corruption.”
The team is made up of representatives from the Hawks, the SA Revenue Service (Sars), the Special Investigating Unit, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the commercial branch of the SA Police Service.
It is headed by Hawks boss Anwa Dramat. His deputy is Sars anti-corruption unit head Clifford Collings.
Zille said there was effectively no team left since Dramat and Collings had become “victims of high-level purges”.
However, on Tuesday the president said the ACTT had visible successes and government looked up to it to work even harder to assist in rooting out corruption.
“It is disappointing that the premier [Zille] has decided to spread misleading information and gossip when she could have easily established the facts and imparted accurate information to the public,” the presidency said.
It said the inter-ministerial committee confirmed and concretised the role of the ACCT in June last year.
Government had a multi-agency approach [to its] comprehensive anti-corruption architecture, which is composed of a range of institutions to address corruption from different angles, said the presidency.
“This sets the direction towards ensuring that a resilient anti-corruption system is in place.”
The presidency said that a number of changes took place in 2014, including the development of a number of strategies to address corruption, and the launching of initiatives and establishment of mechanisms to expose corrupt practices in South Africa.
Legislature had been enacted that empower business, government and non-governmental organisations to act against corruption, it said.
Democracy will prevail
Dramat was suspended on December 23, pending a probe into his alleged involvement in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabweans in November 2010.
Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko appointed Major General Berning Ntlemeza as acting national Hawks head.
The Helen Suzman Foundation approached the Pretoria high court, asking it to set aside Nhleko’s decision to suspend Dramat and Ntlemeza’s subsequent appointment.
The foundation maintained the wording of the South African Police Service Act, under which Nhleko purportedly made the decision, had been struck down by the Constitutional Court, making Dramat’s suspension invalid.
The court ruled on Friday that Dramat’s suspension was “unlawful and invalid”. Nhleko filed appeal papers soon after, meaning Dramat could not return to work until the appeal had been heard. His return would also depend on the outcome of the appeal.
On Monday, Zille said Collings had been “sideways demoted” after being put in charge of the Sars warehouses, and four other Sars officials had been purged.
She believed certain high-level investigations, such as a probe into Zuma’s tax bill, would be put on hold.
However, democracy would prevail as long as principled individuals remained in key positions, including public protector Thuli Madonsela, she said. – Sapa