New justice minister Ronald Lamola vows NPA will follow the money
Justice minister pledges support to get the underfunded, understaffed prosecuting authority moving
The role of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is not something that is subject to his feelings, but comes from the constitution, according to new justice minister Ronald Lamola.
“[The NPA] won’t be defined by my feelings and how I view it. The constitution is clear, the NPA Act is clear: they must do their job without fear or favour to anyone,” Lamola told Business Day after the state of the nation address last week. He was appointed minister of justice & constitutional development late in May.
Lamola’s stance on the independence of the NPA is important, given that the prosecuting authority has for years been seen to be open to political abuse.
Restoring the integrity of the NPA has become one of the key objectives of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration.
Ramaphosa on Thursday said measures aimed at strengthening the NPA, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), the SA Revenue Service and state security were achieving important results.
He also announced further details, including that national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi has been asked to “develop a plan to significantly increase the capacity and effectiveness of the NPA, including to ensure effective asset forfeiture”.
Lamola said the department is giving the NPA support to mitigate the budgetary constraints it faces, including “huge vacancy rates”, and ensuring that the prosecuting authority functions effectively without having to wait for the next budget cycle.
In his address, Ramaphosa also said the new SIU special tribunal, which he announced in February, is expected to start its work within the next few months. It aims to fast-track civil claims arising from SIU investigations, which are estimated to be at R14.7bn.
The presidency said in February that fast-tracking the matters through the special tribunal would enable the SIU to recover monies or assets lost by state institutions through irregular and corrupt means, “thus ensuring those responsible for the loss of monies and or assets by state institutions are held accountable”.
Lamola said rules will soon be promulgated to enable the special tribunal to function. “Our target is that in the next three months it must be up and running. It needs to follow the money, but we are also clearing any legal hurdles,” Lamola said.
He said the SIU has always had to queue to have its matters heard on the backlogged court roll. “We believe it can’t wait,” said Lamola. “The money needs to be followed as quickly and urgently as possible.”