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‘SA needs corruption busting expertise’

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Staff Reporter

South Africa urgently needs more specialised personnel if the country is to win the war against corruption, according to experts.

Head of the investigating directorate at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Advocate Hermione Cronje, told a webinar on corruption hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) on Tuesday that those involved in corruption are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to trace.

She said it is therefore important for the country to determine the nature of specialisation required in order to properly address the kind of corruption that is starting to look like it is endemic in South Africa.

“We need specialisation in digital forensics,” said Cronje.

The webinar was titled “Corruption in South Africa: the endemic pandemic”.

“We have the advantage that, in the Zondo Commission, we have created a digital forensics capability that I believe is almost second to none. That capability now needs to be put at the disposal of law enforcement,” said Cronje.

She stressed that adequate resources, training and independence are critical to those investigating corruption.

Cronje said South Africa has not seen many big corruption prosecutions in a couple of years due to lack of capacity on the part of prosecution, hence the need for specialised training.

“We know it’s a slow and very frustrating process. The system has been very broken, and I think the steps we are taking to build and rebuild will bear fruit, but not in a spectacular way that we all hoped for,” she said.

“But let’s discuss the real issue, let’s discuss how to resource, how to make trials happen more speedily. Why not have a corruption court?”

Other panellists for the webinar included deputy national director of public prosecutions Advocate Ouma Rabaji-Rasethaba; Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa director Advocate Paul Hoffman; former judge of the Western Cape High Court, Justice Dennis Davis; and UFS dean of the faculty of law, Professor John Mubangizi.

UFS rector and vice-chancellor Professor Francis Petersen was the facilitator.

Rabaji-Rasethaba said the NPA has capacity and capability challenges in terms of fighting crime but was reorganising and rebuilding to ensure that it is on top of fighting corruption.

“The Anti-Corruption Task Team, which is the law enforcement agencies coming together to fight corruption, has also been hollowed out. But the good news there is that we are in the process of rebuilding it,” said Rabaji-Rasethaba.

She said they now have a module called the Fusion Centre and are currently working from the Financial Intelligence Centre in Centurion to make sure that the fighting of corruption is fast-tracked. This module was established when COVID-19 corruption started.

“We’ve now agreed that the NPA and the DPCI (the Hawks) need to co-locate with the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) to the special investigating unit in DPCI, which is tracing assets, so that we can fast-track recovery of the proceeds of crime. We are also capacitating the NPA, particularly the specialised units such as the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit and the AFU, to make sure that we get all the right skills we need to be fit for purpose,” Rabaji-Rasethaba explained.

Mubangizi said even though South Africa has an adequate and sufficient legal framework to deal with corruption, the problem persists because corruption has become institutionalised, systemic and normalised.

“And when something becomes institutionalised, systemic, and normalised, it becomes endemic,” he said.

Mubangizi expressed concern that in some cases, the country’s political leadership is largely responsible for some of the corruption and that there is lack of political accountability.

“I think the law does not bite hard enough. It’s one thing to have the laws, but it’s a completely different thing to have it property and effectively enforced. This brings into question the role of law enforcement agencies,” he said.

“Unfortunately, most South Africans do not trust that these agencies are able to bring corrupt officials to book.

“Some of the members of these agencies are assumed corrupt themselves, and the agencies are perceived to be compromised, captured and toothless.”

Davis indicated that South Africa has enough institutions to fight corruption but questioned why there is no real moral authority in the country.

“We need to look to our political structures,” said the retired judge.

“The NPA should be strengthened and should also reach out to the expertise in the country, which can assist in this regard.

“I still believe that the best way of dealing with corruption is through the use of the South African Revenue Service to hold people accountable.

“If we can expedite these cases and actually find people guilty of tax fraud, we hold them to account and get back significant sums of money.”

Hoffman emphasised that the culture of impunity has gradually grown since the Scorpions were dissolved.

“There is a need for the creation of a Chapter Nine institution that answers to Parliament and is specialised, trained, independent, resourced with security of tenure, and compliant as the best way forward in the fight against corruption,” said Hoffman.

He said one of the main jobs of this Chapter Nine institution would be to address the recovery of the loot of state capture.

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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks

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PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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