Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...


People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa
Constitution Hill, Johannesburg
First hearings: 3 – 7 February 2018

The organising committee for the People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa hereby invites members of the public to submit information to be presented at the first hearings of the People’s Tribunal in February 2018.

The tribunal aims to allow an inclusive and evidence-based discussion on the inter-connected nature of state capture in South Africa, joining the dots over the past four decades from apartheid-era economic crime to the post-apartheid arms deal and the current era of what we call ‘state capture’. The tribunal will hear evidence relating to each of these eras over the five days.

The first hearings will focus on the arms trade across all three eras. We thus invite anyone with information on the following cases to bring evidence forward to the organising committee:

  • Alleged breaches of international and South African law by actors who facilitated the illegal supply of weapons to apartheid South Africa between 1977 and 1994.
  • Alleged breaches of South African and international law by corporations and individuals in the process of the 1999 arms deal.
  • Alleged breaches of South African and International law in relation to current allegations of state-capture as they relate to Denel.

People are encouraged to come forward with both documentary evidence and first-hand experience. All submissions will be treated confidentially, and it is not required to publicly present the evidence at the tribunal. A select number of submissions will be given an opportunity for verbal presentation. Information will only be used with the consent of the witness and may be presented to the tribunal and adjudicators in different forms.

The organising committee consists of Open Secrets, Right2Know Campaign, Corruption Watch, Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Public Affairs Research Institute, and the Foundation for Human Rights.

Key questions:

  1. What format will the tribunal take? The People’s Tribunal is organised by citizens, not a statutory body. It follows the model of people’s tribunals that have unfolded in many parts of the world to consider human rights issues, from war crimes in Vietnam to the conditions in Palestine. Members of the public can submit evidence, which will be introduced and examined by a small team of evidence leaders. A panel of seven adjudicators will consider these submissions and make a written report that will be presented to the public.
  2. Who should submit evidence? If you have evidence that you believe can substantiate allegations of economic crime you are encouraged to make a submission. Your evidence can be based on documents in your possession or a statement that you wish to submit. We suggest that as a first step you contact the tribunal secretariat (see details below) and we will in confidence guide you through the format in which to make your submission.
  3. What is the deadline? The deadline for submitting evidence is 22 October 2017.
  4. How do I make contact? Please send all these details to the tribunal secretariat (c/o Open Secrets).

Telephone: (021) 447 2701

  1. Can I make an anonymous submission? We encourage you to attach your name to any submission. However, we undertake to protect your identity if that is a preference and the organising committee considers it appropriate.
  2. What will happen with my submission? Your evidence will be evaluated by a small team of researchers from within the organising committee and will then be forwarded to evidence leaders for consideration and eventual presentation at the tribunal.
  3. Do I have to present the evidence? A select number of people who have submitted evidence will be asked to present this at the tribunal.
  4. Will those implicated be given an opportunity to respond? This is not a legal process and therefore not all voices will be heard. However, we will give parties implicated in submissions an opportunity to make submissions of their own to the tribunal.
  5. Who will adjudicate evidence? We are in the process of appointing tribunal adjudicators. These will all be women and men of integrity who serve the interests of the public. They will include legal experts and activists.
  6. What about evidence of corruption in my community? At the tribunal we will host a session on each day that will focus on submissions from social movements and civil society organisations highlighting the impact of corruption and inequality. We will invite a small number of verbal submissions on each day. More details on this to follow soon.
  7. What will be the outcome of the People’s Tribunal? The adjudicators will produce a report that will be released in early 2018. We hope that civil society can use this in its advocacy efforts to strengthen calls for accountability. The tribunal is not a court and hence its outcome is not binding on anyone. This is an advocacy effort meant to strengthen calls for powerful organisations and people implicated in economic crimes to be held to account.
  8. Will the tribunal be open to the public? Yes, the tribunal will take place at Constitution Hill and will be open to members of the public and the media who register in advance.
  9. Who is funding the tribunal? We rely on solidarity from partner organisations in civil society to ensure the success of the tribunal. Funding for the tribunal is provided to Open Secrets by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Open Society Foundation Human Rights Initiative, Open Society Foundation for South Africa and the Claude Leon Foundation.

Background and aims of the People’s Tribunal

The People’s Tribunal on Economic Crimes seeks to interrogate the continuities in grand corruption in South Africa over the past 40 years, from apartheid to contemporary state capture. It hopes to stimulate informed public debate and engagement in the continuities of corruption in South Africa, and identify actors in the private and public sector who have committed or been complicit in acts of corruption or economic crime.

Contemporary allegations of systemic state capture suggest that private actors are systematically undermining South Africa’s democracy by leveraging influence over powerful public actors to make profit. In doing so, these actors have become the central concern of South African citizens, as corruption is seen as a primary stumbling block to achieving greater socio-economic justice and addressing poverty, inequality and unemployment. Within these concerns, there is a growing recognition among citizens and civil society that South Africa’s contemporary challenges of corruption and state capture are deeply rooted in the history of economic crime, and the manner in which the apartheid state was captured by private networks who saw opportunity to profit on the back of oppression.

The state has, thus far, failed to adequately investigate and prosecute actors implicated in corruption during apartheid, the 1999 arms deal and contemporary state capture. This failure is despite the efforts of civil society groups and whistle-blowers to expose these corrupt networks. In addition, most recent state led attempts to tackle high-level political corruption cases have led to nothing.

In these circumstances, we believe that there is a need for civil society to lead an inclusive and evidence based discussion on the inter-connectedness of state capture in South Africa from apartheid-era economic crimes to the post-apartheid arms deal and the so-called Gupta state capture. This will inform a more nuanced debate and understanding of this challenge to South Africa’s democracy, and be an important step in truth-telling, and for future accountability. It will also provide contexts for the consideration of institutional reforms required to address accountability failures in South Africa’s past and present.