Zuma gets serious about graft, DA’s response

President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation debate reply that the South African government takes the fight against crime and corruption extremely seriously, adding that the Anti-Corruption Task Team is successfully tackling graft in both the public and private sectors.

Zuma said the Anti-Corruption Task Team, made up of representatives from the country's various security agencies, was currently investigating 45 corruption-related priority cases against 151 accused people, with assets in excess of R600-million having been seized.

In addition, Zuma said, since the inception of the National Anti-corruption Hotline, which is managed by the Public Service Commission, 1 499 officials had been charged with misconduct and corrupt activities at national and provincial government levels.

South Africa’s opposition party the Democratic Alliance (DA) commented on Zuma’s statement that "most of the corruption you read about in the media is exposed as a result of the work of government and its agencies", by noting:

“South Africa's major corruption scandals have not been broken by government, but by the media, and the opposition. These include the arms deal, to which former President Thabo Mbeki, President Zuma and then Minister of Defence Joe Modise were all linked; Travelgate, in which a number of high ranking African National Congress (ANC) MPs, such as former deputy police minister Maggie Sotyu, misused parliamentary travel vouchers; Oilgate, which traced the involvement of an ANC-linked company in diverting money from a state contract to the coffers of the ANC; the SAPS lease scandal, in which former Minister of Public Works Gwen-Mahlangu Nkabinde and suspended National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele were involved; and the Chancellor House/Hitachi scandal, which saw the ANC's front company landing lucrative contracts with the state.”

 Government is not the last line of defence against corruption. The media and the opposition are, the DA added in a press release issued after the debate.

‘On target’

The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster is set to meet its target of arresting and prosecuting 100 people suspected of serious corruption by April 2014. The same people are suspected of having more than R5-million in illicit assets.

Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Jeff Radebe recently led the cluster in updating the media on its ongoing work to combat crime yesterday, BuaNews agency reported. He said in the first 18 months of improving coordination of the law enforcement agencies, which is led by the Anti-Corruption Team, "significant progress has been made towards reaching our targets".

He cited that between April and December 2011, 56 persons were being investigated and in 2012, they would be investigating 32 more. He said that 26 of these people had been arrested and appeared in court, 12 of them having done so this year.

Radebe said that 19 of these people had had their assets to the value of R579-million frozen. "The current priority case investigation involves a total of 157 suspect persons. Through concerted effort and coordination within our cluster, the impact of our work is beginning to be felt. This, we believe, will have a deterrent effect on potential offenders," he said.

The minister said in his address that more South Africans were joining in the fight against crime in general. He called on the nation to take part in anti-corruption campaigns. In addition, he said on-going police training, equitable distribution of policing resources, the creation of a professional police force would be consolidated during this and next year.

Dlamini-Zuma: fraudsters being punished

Dozens of government officials implicated in corrupt activities have either been arrested, convicted or are in the process of having their cases finalised by the relevant law enforcement agencies, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has said.

Responding to media questions as to what has happened to the 1 499 officials charged for misconduct nationally, she said government was committed to clean governance and that anyone found to have breached the law would have to face the consequences, BuaNews reported.

It also emerged at the Governance and Administration cluster briefing, in which Dlamini-Zuma serves as a chairperson, that through the investigation of several cases of corruption, the state had recovered R110-million from perpetrators in various departments.

Dlamini-Zuma attributes some of the successes in dealing with misconduct in government to the monitoring and evaluation which was strengthened when a separate ministry for this function was introduced in 2009.

Arms deal secrets to be swept under carpet?

Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe, President Jacob Zuma and Judge Willie Seriti will make the decision on how much of the arms deal report will be open to the public, The Star reported.

Zuma could keep the arms deal inquiry’s final report secret, and the inquiry chair could restrict information access.

The inquiry regulations which Zuma signed into law this month don’t close the inquiry to the public, but do make restrictions possible.

The inquiry hasn’t started, although the two-year clock started ticking when the terms of reference were gazetted in November.

The regulations are in terms of the Commissions Act of 1947, which orders that evidence be heard in public unless the chairman decides otherwise.

According to the regulations:

  • No copy of the report or interim report or part of these may be released without the president’s authorisation;
  • Witnesses may not refuse to answer questions, but that evidence may not be used against them in criminal proceedings;
  • Cross-examination of witnesses happens only if the chair deems it necessary;
  • Documents may be seized with a warrant, but only if this is based on information revealed under oath;
  • Nobody may provide information or access to records of the inquiry “except insofar as it is necessary in the performance of his or her duties in connection with the functions of the commission or by order of a competent court”;
  • No disseminating or publishing of documents submitted to the inquiry without the chair’s written permission; and
  • No shorthand notes or recordings transcribed without the chair's permission.

Anti-arms deal activist Terry Crawford-Browne said the regulations appeared to disregard presidential expressions of commitment to deal with corruption.

Commission chair Judge Willie Seriti said that giving the president the authority to release the report was standard.

Releasing the report would thus be solely his discretion, said Judge Seriti, who referred to precedents when courts ordered the president to release other inquiry reports.

Judge Seriti could not say whether the restrictions on transcribing notes would affect media reporting.

“If the arms deal inquiry is to have credibility, its final report must be made public,” the DA said.

“We will never reach closure on the arms deal if President Jacob Zuma does not make the final report or parts of the final report of the arms deal commission of inquiry public,” said David Maynier, the DA’s spokesperson on defence.

Corruption Watch director David Lewis said there were “grounds for concern” in the regulations.

“To tackle corruption what is needed is a maximum degree of transparency without jeopardising national security. You err on the side of transparency. These regulations seem to err on the side of secrecy.”

‘SA must unite to fight graft’

The fight against corruption would only be won with more coherence in the government, Asset Forfeiture Unit head Willie Hofmeyr has said.

“If we are to deal with corruption effectively, it is very important that the different parts and streams of government work more closely than at the moment,” he told the Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa public sector forum in Kempton Park, according to Sapa.

“The difficulty at the moment is that there is not a great coherence to what we do. There is not a single place where the accountability rests.”

The government had begun dealing with this problem.

Hofmeyr now serves as deputy national director of public prosecutions for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). He said the government had set a target of convicting 100 people, with illicit assets exceeding R5 million, by 2014.

The establishment of the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT) in the justice cluster was important in helping to achieve this.

“ACTT has already initiated 56 investigations. Twenty-six are already in court 21 had assets frozen.”

Hofmeyr said nearly half-a-billion rand had been seized and that the amount could increase to R1-billion in the “foreseeable future”. Public perception was that corruption had increased over the past five years, but that was not true.

“What we have succeeded in is building capacity. The number of people investigating full-time has increased dramatically. This is why we see a lot more (stories about) corruption in the newspapers.”

Hofmeyr said the government’s target proved it was “serious” about fighting corruption. “It is not about bringing 100 people to court, it is about ensuring convictions. This requires a lot more resources than previously.”

He said various anti-corruption groups, including the Hawks, the Special Investigating Unit and the NPA, were debating different measures that could be used to prevent corruption, including issuing civil penalties. “With the criminal justice system, you need to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt – and that is a high benchmark.

Gordhan commends Corruption Watch in budget speech

In his 2012 budget address on 22 February 2012, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan promised an improvement in planning and management of state capital projects, saying: “We shall step up the quality of planning, costing and project management, so that infrastructure is developed on time, and on budget.”

Crucial to this was also ridding the state machinery and the private sector of corruption, he added.

“We call on ordinary South Africans not to sit back and accept bribery when you come across it, whether in the public or private sector. Contact the hotline in government departments. Don’t accept bribery. Don’t become part of corruption,” he warned.

Gordhan had high praise for the Corruption Watch initiative.

A range of measures would be implemented to keep government business honest, the minister said.

For example, the National Treasury planned to develop a national price reference system, to detect deviations from acceptable prices.

Also: “The tax clearance system will be strengthened to ensure that those who have defrauded the state cannot do business with the state.”

And in reference to the lease of buildings, he said: “The minister of public works and I have agreed to undertake a joint review of the validity and cost effectiveness of all government property leases.”

Cosatu focuses on Free State

Fresh from having flexed its anti-corruption muscles in Limpopo, Cosatu has turned its attention to the Free State, it was reported in the Daily Maverick.

South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) provincial secretary Mokone Miya said almost all the municipalities in Free State were marred by “blatant” corruption, irregular awarding of tenders, ghost employees, nepotism and maladministration.

“These issues also have a potential of ruining our relationship with the ruling party, the African National Congress, and our alliance partners,” Miya said.

Free State Premier Ace Magashule has welcomed the national government’s intervention in two of his province’s departments, including the troubled roads and transport department, projected to overspend by R449.9-million in the current financial year.

Treasury had also found the department had contravened the Borrowing Powers of Provincial Government Act and the Provincial Financial Management Act in awarding 23 road tenders without proper procedures.

 Free State roads and transport MEC Butana Komphela, according to a Volksblad report, blamed the awarding of the 23 tenders on his predecessor, Thabo Manyoni, now Mangaung mayor. Komphela reportedly said the tenders were awarded by verbal agreement to friends of officials and politicians.

Cosatu provincial secretary Sam Mashishi told Daily Maverick that the labour federation wanted to see an outright ban on all state employees doing business with the state.

He said Cosatu stood arm-in-arm with Samwu in their grievances, adding there would be no equivocation when it came to corruption. Mashishi reiterated that, should these issues not be resolved satisfactorily, the union’s relations with the provincial ANC would be dealt a significant blow.

President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation debate reply that the South African government takes the fight against crime and corruption extremely seriously, adding that the Anti-Corruption Task Team is successfully tackling graft in both the public and private sectors…