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National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shamila Batohi has admitted to being “wrong” about her estimation of quickly scoring big convictions in the corruption cases admitted from the evidence before the state capture commission, which was chaired by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo from 2018 to 2022.

The NPA, says Batohi, had learned from prosecution glitches such as in the case of Nulane Investments, the entity over which several suspects associated with the Gupta empire were rounded up and charged for corruption related to the Vrede Dairy farm project in the Free State. The case was thrown out of court in April 2023 due to the NPA’s failure to prove its case against the eight accused, but the NPA has since appealed the ruling.

The acquittal of the accused, who include Gupta brothers Rajesh and Atul and several of their associates, dealt a blow to the efforts of the South African government to extradite the brothers from the United Arab Emirates, where it was believed they were still residing. Also in April 2023, Batohi and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola opened up during another media briefing about the challenges in securing the much-anticipated extradition, which Batohi admits still persist.

In explaining the broader strategy of the NPA and its Investigative Directorate, Batohi told the media at the recent briefing that criminal prosecution was not the only approach required for the complex array of corruption cases now with the NPA, but that a holistic approach that embraces other measures of accountability was sought.

FS asbestos case

Meanwhile, in the Free State, the high-profile accused in the asbestos case lamented the latest delays in the trial. Former Free State premier Ace Magashule and businessman Edwin Sodi were both reported in the media as having expressed frustration at yet another postponement of the case, on 15 April. The two are among 18 accused facing trial for their alleged involvement in the R255-million asbestos contract matter, which featured in the evidence of the state capture commission. Magashule said while he had been co-operating with authorities in the matter, it had become a hindrance in his election campaign efforts. He is contesting the 29 May elections under the party he formed in 2023, African Congress for Transformation. The case has been postponed to 14 June 2024.

Magashule’s former personal assistant Moroadi Cholota, who also faces charges relating to the matter, was arrested earlier in April in the US, where she is currently studying. The NPA expected an extradition process to start once she had appeared before authorities in that country.

Controversy over election list

Controversy followed the release of the final political party candidate list by the Independent Electoral Commission earlier in April, after the ANC kept a number of its leaders who were previously implicated in state capture. On its list, released on 10 April following the objection period in which political parties are required to place formal reservations on candidates, the ANC kept Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, Arts and Culture Minister Zizi Kodwa, Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thabang Makwetla, and MP and former minister Malusi Gigaba.

In the commission’s final report, Zondo found that there were reasonable grounds for all four to face further investigation for their alleged role in the capture of different entities of government at different times.