In what could be considered as a warning to the fightback campaign against his reforms, President Cyril Ramaphosa warned that “those who continue to steal from the people” will face the full might of the law.
“We continue to rebuild the critical institutions that were eroded by state capture,” Ramaphosa said as he addressed a joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on Thursday.
He was replying to the debate on his State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Ramaphosa said government had allocated “substantial additional resources” to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to fill vacancies and capacitate the prosecution service, which enabled the NPA to advertise over 800 posts late in 2019.
“The NPA is a critical component of the criminal justice system that needs to have the means to contribute effectively to the fight against crime,” Ramaphosa said.
“To tackle serious corruption related to the capture of our state institutions, the NPA’s new investigating directorate has been working closely with law enforcement, SARS [SA Revenue Service], the Financial Intelligence Centre, the SIU [Special Investigating Unit], the Reserve Bank and the private sector, and has been engaging with the Zondo commission.”
He said the SIU’s tribunal to fast-track civil claims and recover stolen funds arising from SIU investigations, has been established.
“And while Eskom and Transnet have between them recovered more than R2.3 billion in monies lost to corruption, we know that this is just a fraction of what has been lost to state capture,” Ramaphosa said.
“We are determined that all these funds must be found and must be returned, no matter where in the world we need to go to find them.
“We are determined that all those who have stolen from the people – and all those who continue to steal from the people – should face the full might of the law.”
During the debate, several opposition MPs lambasted the government for the lack of looters who have gone to prison.
‘We find ourselves now in desperate times’
In his speech in the Sona debate on Tuesday, DA interim leader John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa’s failure to act on those implicated in state capture meant that he led the country into a “new despair” instead of a “new dawn”.
“While you were telling us on Thursday night how you’ve fought back against corruption, you had people like Zandile Gumede with you in the House,” Steenhuisen said, referring to the former eThekwini mayor who is facing charges of corruption in Durban.
“While you were telling us how you’ve acted decisively against state capture, the beneficiaries of state capture – some of them chairs of portfolio committees – sat in these very benches.
“And while the country waits with bated breath for the long-promised arrests to be made, we have to learn in a document sent from Parliament to the Committee on Public Service that there will be no arrests, prosecutions or orange overalls this year.”
IFP parliamentary leader and president emeritus Mangosuthu Buthelezi said: “We find ourselves now in desperate times, with an economy all but collapsing. Corruption has brought us here.”
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa also called on the NPA to prosecute those who have looted state coffers.
In his speech in the debate on Wednesday evening, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said Ramaphosa had committed government to the rule of law and a reformed and modernised criminal justice system.
“This is demonstrated by the various commitments he has fulfilled in helping with the rebuilding of the NPA. Under his watch, the following reforms have been implemented: firstly, the NPA has been given an additional R150 million for the current financial year to fill vacancies and build an investigative directorate for the first time in nearly five years.
“Secondly, a Special Tribunal has been operationalised as of the first of October 2019. I can confirm that the Special Tribunal has already heard a few cases. The cases that are due for adjudication amount to R1.7 billion,” Lamola said.
“We are continuing to avail resources for law enforcement agencies to pursue the perpetrators and beneficiaries of corruption and state capture. The Zondo commission of inquiry makes it plain that the project of state capture was a sophisticated and well-orchestrated project designed to enrich a select few at the altar of the national democratic society.
“The president will at the appropriate time release the report on the commission of inquiry into the PIC [Public Investment Corporation].”