The legal battle against state capture has begun, according to governance specialist and lawyer Judith February…
Her comments come following the arrest of former State Security minister Bongani Bongo on charges of corruption on Thursday. The unit also arrested 10 others in connection with the Amathole municipality toilet corruption case.
February, who has written extensively on state capture and government corruption, said Bongo’s role within the state security agency (SSA) was significant during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure.
“[Bongo] was the minister of state security and he was a close ally to Jacob Zuma. He was somebody who tried to interdict the parliamentary committee who was looking at breaches of ethics on his part, so I don’t think it’s insignificant that he has been arrested and charged,” February told News24.
“The way in which Zuma weaponised the state security apparatus in SA against his political enemies – Bongani Bongo was important in that project, so I don’t think the arrest is insignificant.”
The best outcome of Bongo’s case, February said, is that it is properly prepared and followed by a fair trial, but “if he is found wanting, if indeed these allegations are true, politicians like him [should] serve prison time – I think that is the only message and one needs to send a strong message”.
“I think that is the only message and one needs to send a strong message”.
Pressure mounting for prosecutions
Recently News24 reported that National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Shamila Batohi, and head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Investigative Directorate, Hermione Conje, have had a tough time since their appointments.
Public pressure has been mounting for the two to kick off the prosecutions of those implicated in state capture and corruption.
“Clearly, Shamila Batohi has been very careful about what she has said in the public domain around the speed with which she is able to act… but I think her cautionary approach is a solid approach.
“The last thing you want is to have cases where people are arrested, the NPA isn’t prepared and you have botched prosecutions because you haven’t done the background work,” February said.
Eskom and SAA are clear examples of state capture
The effects of state capture are clearly visible – Eskom and SAA being prime examples – and February understands the frustration that many may feel to bring those responsible to book.
With these arrests, this goal seems ever closer and the wheels of justice are starting to turn, February said.
“What is important, is that this is part of a much larger picture about who the individuals are that were and are involved in holding up this corrupt state apparatus.
“My view is that it is better to proceed with caution than to try and appease the general public,” said February.
She added, “I think we need to temper that anger with a pragmatism about how matters come to court.”
“I think we need to temper that anger with a pragmatism about how matters come to court.”
Rejuvenation of justice systems
The arrests are also a sign that South Africa’s justice institutions are “being rejuvenated”, February said.
“I feel cautiously optimistic, also given Hermione Cronje’s comments earlier this week around prosecutions that may take place in 2020, so we need to wait and see. But this is a step in the right direction and we should be supportive of these efforts.”
“Whether you are a politician or a member of Parliament, whoever you are, there will come a time where you have to look out. This is one small step but an interesting and important step in that direction,” said February.