It is heartening to read in Business Day that justice minister Ronald Lamola “seeks to convince a sceptical public that [the government] is serious about enforcing accountability and entrenching the rule of law.” (“State considers special court to fast track corruption cases”, January 11).
Our constitution regards the rule of law as supreme. Accountability is a foundational value of the order it established when it came into force in February 1997.
The specialised courts of which the minister speaks will stand idle if the existing anti-corruption machinery of state is left to bring cases to trial in them. The courts are still functional; it is the anti-corruption machinery that needs attention.
The government remains bound by the rulings of the courts on the issues concerning the criteria for effective and efficient anti-corruption machinery of state. Reform that does not align with these rulings, made in the Glenister case, will be inconsistent with their interpretation of the constitution.
The binding interpretation is set out “loud and clear” in the majority judgments, especially the joint judgment of Moseneke DCJ and Cameron J, and any inconsistencies with it will be liable to be struck down as invalid.
The minister’s reported August 2020 initiative is a sound one because it paraphrases the court rulings. It is a great pity that his initiative has not been acted on by cabinet with the urgency the situation requires. The ANC’s resolution embodying the initiative calls for urgent action.
The draft legislation and the constitutional amendment suggested to the government by Accountability Now in August 2021 build on the minister’s initiative and detail what needs to be done to address the dysfunction in a constitutionally sound way.
The next step is the debating and passing of remedial legislation by parliament. This step is urgently needed to end the kleptocratic culture of impunity and rake back the loot in the public interest. The expense of reform is not an issue; there is so much loot available for seizure and forfeiture that the project will pay for itself with ease.
It is time to bring on the Chapter Nine Integrity Commission to prevent, combat, investigate and prosecute serious corruption in SA. Generating the political will to do so is everyone’s business. The cabinet and all parliamentary caucuses should support the swift creation of the new Chapter Nine Institution, or Anti-Corruption Agency as the Zondo commission has dubbed it.
A suitably unified effort will take months, not years. The drafts exist already.
Paul Hoffman, SC
Director, Accountability Now
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