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President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: ESA ALEXANDER
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: ESA ALEXANDER

President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated that the only way to turn the tide on corruption is by strengthening law-enforcement institutions and shielding them from external interference or manipulation.

Saying that this week marked five years since he embarked on a new journey in the fight against corruption, he recalled his February 2018 state of the nation address (Sona) where he said he was “determined to build a society defined by decency and integrity, that does not tolerate the plunder of public resources or the theft by corporate criminals of the hard-earned savings of ordinary people”.

“Since then, we have made substantial progress in strengthening the state’s ability to deal with corruption. The first significant step in this effort was the establishment of a Special Tribunal to enable the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to expedite civil cases against corrupt individuals and to recover stolen funds,” he said.

The special tribunal was a court dedicated to proceedings arising from SIU investigations and this strategy of combining investigations with civil litigation had enabled the SIU and the Special Tribunal to recover stolen money.

“As of March 2022, the value of civil litigation referred to the high courts and the Special Tribunal amounted to R75bn. This is roughly equivalent to what was budgeted for the child support grant this year. Currently, about 119 cases worth more than R12bn are enrolled at the tribunal.”

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said the second accomplishment in the fight against corruption was the establishment of the Investigating Directorate (ID) in the office of the national director of public prosecutions in 2019 to prosecute serious organised crime and corruption cases.

“Since its establishment, the ID has been preparing several cases of serious corruption, including those emanating from the state capture commission, for trial. This forms part of the NPA’s priority plan to deal with state capture and high-level corruption.”

He added that 2022 had seen a rise in arrests of several individuals allegedly implicated in state capture cases.

“A total of 187 accused persons have been taken to court in 32 state capture and corruption cases, and about R12.9bn in funds and assets have been frozen.”

As announced in his Sona last week, Ramaphosa said the government was about to take another important step forward by making the ID a permanent entity within the NPA, so it could strengthen its collaboration with other entities in the criminal justice system and enrol more cases in the courts.

“Consultations are under way on the legislation to give effect to this and to prescribe its powers and safeguard its independence. This also has implications for its funding and operational capacity.

“Currently, the ID’s investigators are seconded from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the Hawks. Once it’s made permanent, the ID will be able to improve the capacity of its existing team of specialist investigators and prosecutors and recruit new ones,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that his team expected 2023 to be a year of increased activity for the ID as it built on the work it has done so far.

“It has been leading an innovative approach to ensuring accountability from those implicated in state capture. As part of its ongoing criminal investigation into complex corruption at Eskom, the ID has finalised a comprehensive settlement agreement with an international company, ABB, to pay over R2.5bn in punitive reparations to SA.”

He expected that the payment would be made into the Criminal Asset Recovery Account, reflective of the NPA’s two-pronged strategy to deal with corruption through prosecuting perpetrators and recovering stolen money.

“Over many years corruption has systematically weakened the state, damaged key institutions and eroded the country’s social fabric. The Constitutional Court has said that corruption is 'the antithesis of the open, accountable, democratic government required by the constitution.'”

The president added that working together with other multidisciplinary units such as the anticorruption task team, the Fusion Centre and others, his government would strengthen the ID in its work at the front line in the fight against corruption and state capture.

“We set up world class institutions before. Now is the time to rebuild our institutions so they are able to stand the test of time and advance the values and vision of our constitutional democracy.”


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