The lack of criminal charges and arrests against high-level politicians, officials and business people for allegedly looting billions of state funds could be attributed to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation’s (Hawks) need for another 2,500 investigators.
According to the Institute for Security Studies’ Dr Johan Burger, who is a consultant for the justice and violence prevention programme, the Hawks were operating with a staff complement of less than 50%, which prohibited effective investigations of organised crime and corruption.
“The Hawks’ 1,700 investigators, some of whom are helping the investigative directorate of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), are working on almost 19,000 cases with over 15,000 accused on court rolls countrywide as of the end of March,” he said.
He said most of the damage was done during the term of previous national Hawks head Berning Ntlemeza, who made a number of irregular appointments and was eventually fired by then police minister Fikile Mbalula in 2017, after the high court found his appointment was unlawful.
“Ntlemeza left behind numerous of these, and in response a detailed assessment of all Hawks personnel was required. Where misconduct was identified, disciplinary proceedings have been instituted. In some cases, criminal charges are being considered against members of the panels that made irregular appointments,” he said.
Burger said that in North West the provincial head resigned immediately after the appointment of Lieutenant-General Godfrey Lebeya as Hawks boss, while the Eastern Cape provincial head also resigned as disciplinary proceedings against him loomed.
He said disciplinary processes were also ongoing in the case of Major-General Zinhle Mnonopi, who was head of the Hawks anti-corruption task team, after she was suspended in September last year as a result of testimony by former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
“She allegedly tried to scupper criminal investigations into the Guptas, the Indian-born family at the heart of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. This was after a criminal complaint was opened against them for attempting to bribe Jonas with R600 million to take the finance minister position. During the disciplinary proceedings, Mnonopi apparently became ill and is currently booked off sick,” said Burger.
He said the success of these cases also depended on the capacity of the NPA to prosecute them and, according to prosecutions head Shamila Batohi, it currently didn’t have adequate capacity. “In a briefing to the portfolio committee in July, she said insufficient funding, a high vacancy rate and an exodus of senior prosecutors had ‘a major impact on the delivery of services’”.
NPA head of communications Bulelwa Makeke said the national director of public prosecutions’ motivation for additional budget had seen the NPA receive R64 million.
“A portion has been provided to boost capacity in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit and the Asset Forfeiture Unit, as these units will be at the forefront of efforts to prosecute serious corruption cases and recover monies.”
Questions sent to the Hawks were not answered by the time of going to press.