According to the Democratic Alliance (DA), the poor conviction rate in corruption cases is a reflection of the South African Police Services’ (Saps) “incapacity to do its most basic job of investigating crimes”.
In a statement, the party revealed that of the 1 959 cases of suspected corruption that have been reported to Saps in terms of the Companies Act in the past three years, 370 are being investigated and only 135 convictions have been made so far.
Of another 581 corruption and bribery cases reported to the police, only 23 are under investigation and 99 have led to convictions.
The DA was able to establish these numbers based off of a parliamentary reply by Police Minister Bheki Cele. Cele was responding to a question the party posed on how many cases reported to Saps and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Hawks, have actually been probed and prosecuted.
According to the DA, the investigation and conviction rates make “an absolute mockery of South Africa’s criminal justice system.”
Over the past three years, the Hawks have received a total of 2 262 cases of corruption but there have only been 523 convictions.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen told the Mail & Guardian the Hawks and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) no longer have the power they once did because their mandate has been subverted.
“The Hawks and the SIU have been completely compromised over the course of the last decade by being used for political ends rather than law enforcement.”
Steenhuisen believes, the major problem with law enforcement is that it has lost the ability to conduct “multi-disciplinary investigations” where police officers, prosecutors and detectives collaborate on cases. Steenhuisen notes this as a contributing factor to the low investigation and conviction rates.
“What happens now is that when you want to get a docket to court – that is guaranteed to get a prosecution – the dockets get to court, they are easily overturned and basic police work is done badly because the multidisciplinary team that’s supposed to work together to secure a conviction is not there,” Steenhuisen told the M&G.
Steenhuisen said the ongoing commission of inquiry into state capture appears to be “absolute collusion between and amongst the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to ensure that some of these high profile cases are not prosecuted.”
According to him, the SIU has been investigating Bosasa for nearly a decade but there have been no known charges and convictions which shows political collusion and protection of the corrupt.
Steenhuisen further pointed out that a lot of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi’s testimony before the commission has been in the public domain for a few years and that if the Hawks, SIU and the NPA were proactive, the allegations would have been probed and prosecutions would have followed accordingly at a quicker speed.