Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba has seemingly lost so much faith in the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) that he is considering taking the private prosecution route on all cases of corruption that the NPA has refused to prosecute.
Mashaba has taken his frustrations with what he claims is the NPA Johannesburg division’s inaction and bungling of corruption cases amounting to billions of rands up with NPA head, Shamila Batohi.
In a letter to Batohi, the mayor has requested that the NPA issue him a nolle prosequi (decision not to prosecute) on all the corruption investigations before the NPA for decision, or where the NPA withdraws such cases for lack of prima facie evidence against the suspects.
After taking office in August 2016, Mashaba declared corruption “public enemy number one” and established the Group Forensic and Investigation Services (GFIS), bringing in an external forensic firm to clean up the city and bring those implicated in corruption to book.
In a letter addressed to Batohi, copied to Hawks head Lt-General Godfrey Lebeya and others, the mayor said the GFIS received and investigated a total of 5,597 cases between November 2016 and March 31, 2019, with the potential value of more than R33.9 billion.
He, however, laments in the letter dated May 16, 2019 that cases handed over by the GFIS, with evidence, were either not being pursued expeditiously or were mysteriously withdrawn by the NPA in Johannesburg.
Among the cases, the mayor cites that of alleged corruption in the construction and refurbishment of Eldorado Park and Hopefield power stations where a pre-payment of R88 million was made to the contractor despite no work being done.
He states that the investigation was backed by a forensic report with overwhelming evidence, and suspects were duly arrested and appeared in court.
The mayor states that the matter was postponed to a later date and, to their surprise, the case was provisionally withdrawn pending the financial investigation by the Financial Asset and Forfeiture Investigation.
“This begs the question as to why the prosecutor issued a warrant of arrest, knowing he was going to later withdraw the case? Another point of concern is that some of the arrested are foreign nationals and chances are that they may flee the country,” says Mashaba in the letter.
In another letter dated April 1, 2019 addressed to director of public prosecutions (DPP) in Johannesburg, advocate Andrew Chauke, Batohi and others, Mashaba also cites a case involving allegations of manipulation of property values.
He says that the matter had already been enrolled for court but was subsequently removed due to outstanding witness statements in 2018, saying it was “perplexing” that a matter would be enrolled without witness statements.
“There appears to be a complete lack of will on the part of the [the NPA’s Special Commercial Crimes Unit] to ensure that the investigation is completed timeously,” the mayor complained.
Luyanda Mfeka, Mashaba’s spokesperson, said the mayor followed “numerous slam-dunk cases that have been withdrawn from court for over a year”.
“Despite our genuine efforts to assist the NPA in finalising these matters, they appear no closer to being re-enrolled. This has resulted in a number of significant criminal cases being left unattended to by the NPA,” Mfeka said.
NPA spokesperson Bulelwa Makeke confirmed that Batohi had received the correspondence from Mashaba’s office and that the matter was now receiving attention.
“[Batohi] has followed up urgently with the director of public prosecutions South Gauteng [Chauke] for the relevant background and status of the cases referred to.
“She will take appropriate action based on the report received from the DPP,” she said.
Beside the two big-money cases already mentioned, some of the other cases that Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba believes are being bungled or not timeously pursued by the NPA are:
- A Mondeor case where computers belonging to the City of Johannesburg were recovered but the NPA is alleged to have refused to prosecute, despite a statement from a close relative of the accused who pointed out where the computers were.
- The case of a former MMC, who allegedly identified vacant land and, together with community members, formed a trust in whose account money was deposited for building on the property. Mashaba said the NPA declined to prosecute despite proof that money was deposited into the account and that the former MMC was in fact the “director of the company”.
- The case of 35 steel rocker bins that were paid for but never delivered, which Mashaba said the NPA refused to prosecute despite proof.
- A case of building hijacking of Sylvia Court in Malvern, where rates and taxes were not being paid to the city. The NPA is alleged to be sitting on this case despite evidence against those involved in collecting money from tenants.