NEWS & ANALYSIS

Justice Committee told new Investigating Directorate not cure-all

NDPP tells Committee that 'massive amount of corruption' is impeding the work of new unit

Justice and Correctional Services Committee briefed by NPA

10 July 2019

The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services met with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).

Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe said he is aware that the NPA is dealing with complex issues. “There are no easy answers. We will criticise you at times, but it is only to improve the situation. Crime affects all of us. Crime and corruption is a war against the poor and we all need to fight against it.”

The committee heard that a task team was set up to look into all apartheid-era deaths in detention, but that resources are a challenge, as only four people are assigned to work on these cases. Furthermore, some of the inquest documents were destroyed after 10 years.

The committee was also informed of the sudden spike in crime, which National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Adv Shamila Batohi said could be blamed on socio-economic factors, such as gangsterism, drugs and unemployment.

In terms of the newly established Investigating Directorate, the committee heard that because of the “massive amount of corruption”, the directorate cannot be the panacea for dealing with corruption or crime. The directorate needs more staff, but the NDPP assured the committee that it has been inundated with people offering their help to the NPA.

Adv Batohi conceded that there is currently a lack of confidence in the NPA. “There is a lack of credibility and we need to establish how we are going to restore it.”

The NPA cannot manage any further reduction in the budget without seriously hampering service delivery. The committee heard the NPA will have to reduce its staff complement by more than 550 officials over the medium-term economic framework period, in order to remain within the budget, due to the budget cuts affecting all government departments. The NPA has not recruited for the past three years.

The SIU told the committee it will prioritise cases with the NPA involving Eskom, Life Esidimeni and government departments such as Water Affairs. It also informed the meeting that the SIU is currently only 60% funded by government, whilst similar organisations in other countries are 100% funded. It assured the meeting that it subscribes to clean governance processes.

The committee heard that the decriminalisation of cannabis for private use has had an impact on the court’s role and it is now time to look at the role of the dealers, Adv Batohi said.

Mr Magwanishe said the committee commends the work of the SIU. “We obviously have to raise issues if we believe the public needs clarity on matters. That is also why we allowed you to elaborate.”

Issued by Rajaa Azzakani on behalf of Parliamentary Communications Services, 10 July 2019