ONE of the first actions of the faction loyal to President Jacob Zuma at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference was to pass a resolution calling for the disbanding of the Scorpions, a unit of the National Prosecuting Authority charged with fighting organised crime.
It was a breathtaking show of political partisanship given that Zuma was, at the time, being investigated for corruption and fraud by the Scorpions.
The Scorpions had already successfully put behind bars Zuma’s financial advisor, Schabir Shaik, for his part in bribing Zuma.
After the charges against Zuma were dropped on the grounds that they were politically motivated by the then acting head of prosecutions, Mokotedi Mpshe, Zuma ascended to office.
His government turned the Polokwane resolution into law and the Scorpions were replaced by the Hawks. The new agency was to report to the police service and, critically, it lost the independence from interference offered by a reporting line to the prosecuting authority.
Mpshe left the stage and Zuma replaced him with Menzi Simelane, a man who openly believed that the prosecutions agency ought to be politically accountable.
He had been found by Frene Ginwala, who conducted an inquiry into Vusi Pikoli’s fitness for the job of directing prosecutions, to have irregularly attempted to abort the arrest of then police chief, Jackie Selebi.
The Zuma presidency had effectively removed the teeth of the NPA and the Scorpions, placing the investigation and prosecution of organised crime cases firmly within the orbit of the political leadership.
As if to underscore the point, Zuma had appointed an old political bruiser, Bheki Cele, to the position of Police Commissioner and the brother of his jailed financial advisor, Moe Shaik, to head the South African Secret Service.
It is perhaps a sad indictment of civil society that this reshaping of the security and intelligence landscape in the image of a political faction occured with barely a whimper of public protest.
Only one man, Hugh Glenister, felt sufficiently outraged to legally challenge the demise of the Scorpions. After losing in the Western Cape High Court, he continued his battle in the Constitutional Court.
This week the court ruled by a narrow margin that it had been wrong to create an agency to fight organised crime that was not independent of political influence.
It did so with the Chief Justice, Sandile Ngcobo — appointed by Zuma to the job in 2009 — writing a minority opinion against the ruling.
This trickle of justice might not be sufficient to reverse the tide of corruption, but it is a timeous reminder to the powerful that the law still stands above them.
* This is a draft leader for the Sunday Times of 20 March, 2011
TODAY we publish details of a report into the state of Johannesburg’s City Parks which suggests that the city’s money is being abused to reward friends and associates of the managers.
This story is evidence of how corruption is affecting this critical tier of government which has a very real effect on all our lives.
Money which ought to be going to the development of public spaces to allow residents of Johannesburg and their children the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation is being abused.
This matter requires urgent investigation and prosecution.
Government has made a song and dance about it’s determination to fight corruption, yet several months after this report was submitted, nothing has been done.
The reality is that while government has amped up its anti-corruption rhetoric, it has undermined the criminal justice system’s ability to act.
It has sent a clear message that it wants the prosecuting authorities to take into account political factors by placing Menzi Simelane in charge.
And the reality is that has failed to produce any significant prosecutions since President Jacob Zuma took office last year.
Willie Hofmeyr, the man responsible for fighting corruption has complained of a lack of resources and the fact that prosecutions authorities don’t act on investigations.
It is not surprising that our cities are finding themselves delivering fewer services as their debts mount.
The strong suspicion exists that the money is being “eaten” to use the accurate slang by public officials somewhere betwixt tax collection and spending.
Government must prove it still has the will to fight corruption.
IT went by pretty much un-noticed, perhaps because it contained some very uncomfortable truths, but Transparency International’s report on the world’s most corrupt government’s is important.
“The results demonstrate that countries which are perceived as the most corrupt are also those plagued by long- standing conflicts, which have torn their governance infrastructure,” said the group in it’s Corruption Perceptions Index report.
The most corrupt countries were listed as Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Sudan, Iraq, Chad and Uzbekistan.
Also at the top of the list were Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.
The United States was listed in 19th place among least corrupt nations with criticism of its failure to properly oversee its financial sector.
The least corrupt government was New Zealand, followed by Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland, Netherlands, Australia and Canada.
South Africa does not feature among the world’s most corrupt countries and we should take heart from that.
But there are alarming signs that all is not well. The current trial of Police Commissioner has unearthed much evidence of the free and easy relationship between state officials and those with money and influence in the private sector.
The ANC has frequently warned that it will not tolerate corruption, but examples of strong legal action against corruption are few and far between.
There is mounting evidence of low-level corruption involving state officials from police officers to housing department officials.
Stopping the rot requires more than political solutions such as removal from office. It also requires hard-hitting legal action against those who are involved.
The world’s most corrupt governments, according to monitoring group Transparency International:
T8. Equatorial Guinea
And the least corrupt?
1. New Zealand
SHOCKING evidence of how the Auditor General’s report into irregularities with the arms deal was doctored has been tabled in Parliament.
Documents, made available following a court order earlier this year, were tabled in Parliament before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts show that alterations were made to cover up criticisms of corruption.
Although the authors of the changes are not known, the alterations attempt to conceal information that would have been damaging to the late Defence Minister, Joe Modise and other government officials connected to the procurement of the arms.
Omitted from the Auditor General’s report was his finding that “There were fundamental flaws in the selection of BAe/SAAB as the preferred bidder for the LIFT & ALFA programme”.
Instead the following paragraph was inserted: “The joint investigation team found no evidence of impropriety, fraud or corruption by Cabinet or government”.
Reference to Modise “influencing” the process were replaced with a reference to his “visionary approach”.
There are many more examples of this sort of editing which clearly show that the institutions charged with protecting the public from graft were severely undermined.
The changing of conclusions about corruption to praise for the minister are so brazen that they suggest a sprauncy contempt for public accountability.
More than that, they suggest that there are some very powerful figures who had a lot to hide.
There remains only one way to lay the ghost of this arms deal to rest: A full independent inquiry led by a senior judge needs to take place to establish the truth or otherwise of allegations of corruption. Until then, the stain of graft remains on the apron of government.
This is how you do it. You plan a
party meeting, leaning on pals in the civil service, academic institutions and private establishments for accommodation, facilities and a little drinking money.
Then you hold your conference, complete with violence, mooning for the camera and a totally disputed election. Then you leave town and don’t bother to pay any of your bills because of a “financial crisis” that your organisation is experiencing due to mismanagment and possibly worse.
Through all of this, you assert that you occupy the moral high ground and issue lectures on who should or should not be kicked out of Cabinet for incompetence. Without batting an eyelid.
Yep, there’s your pitbull in an diamante collar. Wait, the diamante has been sold off and the pitbull is drunk again.
The Sunday Times reported today on what appears to a be grand wholesale corruption in the public service when it comes to awarding tenders:
South Africa’s civil servants have scored more than half-a-billion rand in government tenders, which were irregularly awarded to their spouses and relatives.
An investigation by auditor-general Terence Nombembe into government officials who moonlight as business executives, found that more than 2000 were involved in tender-rigging and corruption worth more than R610-million.
He has recommended disciplinary action and a tightening of government procurement systems.
The civil servants awarded tenders to companies owned by themselves, their spouses or their relatives.
The report was presented to parliament in April this year but was never formally discussed because parliament was winding up its business ahead of the general election.
It paints a bleak picture of an administration in shambles where corruption, misspending and flagrant abuse of public money is the order of the day.
The auditor-general found that between 2005 and 2007 government officials in eight of the nine provinces cashed in on tenders worth R540-million. KwaZulu-Natal is still being audited.
The remainder of the R610-million was fleeced by officials in national government.
JACOB Zuma has made much of his intention to eliminate corruption, but there have been mixed signals since the new government took office last month.
Zuma’s decision to leave it to his Transport Minister, S’bu Ndebele, to decide whether or not accept the gift of a Mercedes Benz worth over R1 million did not inspire confidence.
He ought to have taken a public stand against this sort of inappropriate behaviour by those who receive government tenders.
In the end, Ndebele did the right thing and turned down this and other gifts, saving Zuma his blushes.
More heartening was the reaction of the new Gauteng Premier to the loss of a million rand Mercedes Benz (is there a theme here?) which she had failed to properly insure in her haste to acquire the trappings of success.
She resigned after it was made clear that her behaviour was not acceptable.
Zuma faces a second test of his commitment following news that public servants have been irregularly involved in over R600 million in tenders.
The revelations by auditor general Terence Nombembe suggest a deep-seated corruption The officials involved face “disciplinary action”, but this may not be enough.
If they drag out for months — even years — and result in one or another wrist-slap, corruption will grow.
The state needs to make it clear that it will seek the dismissal of any person found to have benefitted unfairly from a tender or contract.
If the current labour laws do not allow for this, Zuma should have them amended to give effect to his anti-corruption drive.
South Africa’s public service has been allowed to drift into a state of self-enriching sloth during the Mbeki years.
The stealing of the buck must stop here.
Anwa Dramat, the new head of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation has his work cut out.
He takes over as head of the unit that replaces the Scorpions and has some very big shoes to fill.
The Scorpions, for all the criticism that has been meted out at them, had a very proud record. They had a high conviction rate and build public confidence in the state’s commitment to fighting crime regardless of the political status of the perpetrator.
That public confidence has taken a knock. For one thing, the Scorpions unit was disbanded by politicians, some of whom were under investigation.
Then there is the highly questionable decision by Acting National Prosecutions boss Mokotedi Mpshe to abandon the trial of Jacob Zuma.
Add to that the mounting evidence that law enforcement arms were used for political ends.
Dramat has an opportunity to restore confidence by being impervious to political influence and capable of taking on the powerful.
He takes office under a new political order and will be free of the taint of political interference which emerged into the light earlier this year. He must show that he is not beholden to the new political order.
But it’s not going to be easy.
Dramat’s job has been made more difficult by the detachment of the fight against organised crime from the prosecuting authority. The Scorpions achieved a high conviction rate because their investigators worked hand in glove with prosecutors to ensure evidence was secured and that proper procedures were followed to tie down the accused without legal loopholes.
Dramat does not have this luxury. He will have to report to the police, who have shown themselves incapable of tackling these sorts of crimes. We wish him the best of luck.
– the unit that is replacing the Scorpions – says he is committed to creating peace in the country.
# Dramat to head ‘new Scorpions’
# ‘New Scorpions’ coming in next month
# AUDIO: Mthethwa on ‘new Scorpions’
Dramat told journalists in Cape Town this afternoon that his life has been characterised by a “desire to ensure that our country is as peaceful as possible”.
“I commit myself to work for all South Africans to ensure that our country finally eradicates the scourge of fraud corruption and organised crime,” he said.
Dramat spent about eight years on Robben Island as a political prisoner. He was a former underground operative of the ANC and is a former deputy provincial police commissioner in the Western Cape.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said Dramat worked with the South African Police Services since 1995, working within crime intelligence and dealing with serious crimes.
Mthethwa said: “With backup knowledge on religious extremism, our new head has been at the centre of crime combating since his arrival at the SAPS.”
The minister added that the 639 cases being investigated by the former Scorpions unit will transferred to the new directorate on July 1.
The Scorpions unit will be officially dissolved on that date.
Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance’s safety and security spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard said Dramat’s test will be to ensure that the new unit acts without fear or favour.
“The major challenge facing the new head of the DPCI will be to establish the autonomy of the unit, which has been considerably reduced by its location within the Department of Police. The DA maintains that the move of the unit to this department is an excessive centralisation of power,” she said.