The Democratic Alliance (DA) says it will introduce new legislation in Parliament that will pave the way for the establishment of a new independent Chapter 9 Institution – to investigate allegations of high-level corruption.
The official opposition party, along with civil society organisation Accountability Now, on Thursday held a virtual media briefing on their proposal for the constitutional body that would be known as the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The DA said the country’s law-enforcement agencies were hollowed out by the years of state capture and corruption under former president Jacob Zuma’s presidency. And as a result, the party said the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) were not sufficiently independent and were besieged by systemic challenges.
The main objective of the proposed Anti-Corruption Commission would be to investigate high-level corruption cases, the breach of relevant codes of ethics by prescribed officers, amongst other functions.
The body would also have the power to investigate and recommend to the NPA the prosecution of any acts of corruption or violation of codes of ethics.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture had shown South Africans that the country was in need of an independent, high-level and corruption-fighting organisation.
“It is very clear that the institutions that we have at hand at the moment do not have the ability to fight corruption, and certainly our country has been ravaged by corruption as played out like a soap opera through the Zondo Commission and personal protective procurement scandals,” she said.
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Mazzone said the ANC was “less than enthusiastic” to combat and prosecute high-level corruption, and the new Chapter 9 Institution would be a game changer in the country’s fight against graft.
She said the DA would introduce two Private Members’ bills, one proposing amendments to Sections 181, 193 and 194 of the Constitution to establish the new Chapter 9 Institution. The other legislation would govern the functions, powers and composition of the proposed institution.
“And it will also, in our opinion, relieve the capacity constraints at the NPA,” Mazzone said.
Challenges facing law enforcement
A 2019 staff survey report commissioned by the NPA highlighted budget shortfalls and a lack of resources, personnel vacancies, political interference as well as the erratic changes in the organisation’s leadership as some of its challenges.
To add to the NPA’s challenges, more than R422 million was cut from its budget for the 2021-2022 financial year, while R41 million was cut from the Special Investigating Unit (SIU).
The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), advocate Shamila Batohi, has on numerous occasions complained about the lack of capacity the NPA faces and warned that budget cuts would hamper its fight against corruption.
DA MP and spokesperson on justice and correctional services, Glynnis Breytenbach, said the obsolete graft fighting unit, the Scorpions, was disbanded by the ANC government in 2008 for going after corrupt politicians in the governing party.
“The establishment of the Hawks was done to replace the Scorpions, which was disbanded controversially because they were independent and effective and did their job without fear or favour or prejudice. And sent politically well-connected people to jail.
“This did not win them any favour with the governing party and as a result, was disbanded… and has left us in a position largely where we find ourselves right now,” she said.
Breytenbach said the DA wanted the new Chapter 9 Institution to provide a quicker, more efficient and effective method of dealing with grand-scale corruption.
She called on the public and other political parties to support the DA’s proposal for the proposed body.
What the commission will look like
The DA’s proposed graft-fighting commission is envisioned to consist of a variety of commissioners, with the head national commissioner being a retired justice of the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Appeal or high court judge.
The appointment of the commissioners would be independent and appointed according to the existing procedure outlined in Section 193 of the Constitution on the appointment of heads of Chapter 9 Institutions.
There would also be a secretariat of the commission and a full complement of staff operating in support of the appointed commissioners.