Despite the massive corruption enabled by the Guptas and The New Age newspaper, to follow the SA Press Codehas to remain voluntary, otherwise government interference means freedom of expression will be affected.
This is according to former ombud Pippa Green, who said on Wednesday’s press freedom was at risk if government intervened. The Press Freedom Commission, chaired by the late Chief Justice Pius Langa, recommended the Press Council be set up as a self-regulatory body.
“It has to be between the media and the public and it should not be referred to as co-regulation,” said Green.
The New Age which was owned by the Guptas did not belong to the Press Council, which means it was not accountable to anybody. According to Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s first report on state capture, Jacob Zuma displayed just how far he would go to support the Gupta family.
While South Africans wait for the Zondo report recommendations to be implemented, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) believed The New Age was former president Zuma’s “pet project”. Outa executive director Stefanie Ficks said The New Age reflected how it had access to those involved in manipulating the government.
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Questions whether the money lost through corruption will ever be recovered still stand as South Africans wait for action to be taken against those implicated. According to Ficks, those implicated should be held liable.
“If we cannot believe that recommendations will be implemented, then we have wasted a lot of taxpayers’ money at the state capture commission and we are not closer to holding people to account and to ensure it never happens,” Ficks said.
Law enforcement bodies such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) are responsible for making sure those criminally implicated are held responsible.
“The state should go after and hold the individuals to account and make them pay back the money,” said Ficks. Ficks said, although important, it should not always be about prosecution and criminal charges.
“A part of accountability is also ethical leadership, which will make sure everything is handled in the best interests of South Africans; leadership that will make sure our economy grows,” she said.
“In general, South Africans want to look after themselves, their families by creating jobs, it will give them that power and it is necessary to eradicate corruption because corruption has a big influence on our ability to look after the social needs of South Africans.”
Meanwhile, the NPA welcomed expressions of support from the private sector as “appropriate”.
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It confirmed it will continue to work with key partners, while insulating itself from any perceptions of external influence. The NPA announced on Wednesday it had created a dedicated Task Force coordinated at the highestlevels within the NPA to respond to the first of the three Zondo commission reports.
The Task Force’s main focus will be on “progress and impact” and builds on work already done in collaboration with the Zondo Commission and other law enforcement partners, according to NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga.
A review inclusive of all cases covered by the report, including those already proclaimed by its Investigating Directorate (ID), will be conducted. The ID is central in the NPA’s response to the commission’s reports and is investigating matters mentioned therein.