/ 7 February 2019

Special NPA unit to deal with Zondo commission evidence to be set up

“Where there is a basis to prosecute
“Where there is a basis to prosecute, prosecutions must follow swiftly and stolen public funds must be recovered urgently,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said. (David Harrison/M&G)

In his 2019 State of the Nation address (Sona), President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the establishment of an investigating directorate within the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to deal with evidence that has emerged at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

Corruption formed a significant part of Ramaphosa’s speech on Thursday as he highlighted the need for state-owned enterprises to be stabilised and for action to be taken against rampant graft.

“The revelations emerging from the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture and other commissions are deeply disturbing, for they reveal a breadth and depth of criminal wrongdoing that challenges the very foundation of our democratic state,” Ramaphosa said.

Ramaphosa explained the need to act on testimony that has revealed the extent of state capture at before the commission — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — with prosecutions and investigations to recover the proceeds of criminal activity.

“Where there is a basis to prosecute, prosecutions must follow swiftly and stolen public funds must be recovered urgently,” Ramaphosa added.

The president said that the decision to establish a directorate came after he discussed the matter with newly instated national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi.

“To this end, we have agreed with the new national director of public prosecutions, that there is an urgent need to establish in the office of the NDPP an investigating directorate dealing with serious corruption and associated offences, in accordance with Section 7 of the NPA Act,” he said.

His announcement comes days after former Bosasa chief operating officer and whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi and others implicated in the firm’s scandal were arrested. On Thursday, just a few hours before Ramaphosa’s speech, news emerged that former prison’s boss Linda Mti has been released on bail of R20 000 after he was charged with corruption for his dealings with Bosasa.

While commissions of inquiry do not guarantee prosecutions, this new direction by Batohi and Ramaphosa may result in action being taken following inquiries that may be more likely to result in prosecution where necessary.

Ramaphosa said that the terms of reference for the directorate would be set out “soon”. He confirmed, however, that the Zondo commission would form part of the work of the directorate as well as evidence presented in other inquiries.

“In broad terms, the Directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, other commissions and disciplinary inquiries,” he said.

“It will identify priority cases to investigate and prosecute and will recover assets identified to be the proceeds of corruption,” he concluded.

While Ramaphosa set out these new plans for the NPA, former president Jacob Zuma was absent from the ceremony. Former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki were present.

Ramaphosa also gave firm support to Batohi, emphasising the importance of and the need to respect an independent NDPP.