The South African government is taking crucial steps to address the issue of State Capture, and one of the key measures is the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Amendment Bill. This bill has recently been presented in Parliament, but concerns have arisen about its effectiveness in ensuring the independence of the NPA. In this article, we will explore the significance of the NPA Amendment Bill and why public input is essential.
The Purpose of the NPA Amendment Bill
The NPA Amendment Bill is a response to the recommendations made by the Zondo Commission, which investigated State Capture in South Africa. The President’s response to the State Capture Report included three main points:
- Establishing a permanent Investigating Directorate.
- Ensuring transparency in the appointment of the head of prosecutions.
- Strengthening the capacity of the NPA.
However, the current NPA Amendment Bill primarily focuses on the first point – the establishment of a permanent Investigating Directorate within the NPA.
Concerns about the Independence of the NPA
While the creation of a permanent Investigating Directorate is a step in the right direction, some Members of Parliament (MPs) and legal experts have expressed concerns about the bill’s limited scope in addressing the broader issue of NPA independence. Werner Horn of the Democratic Alliance (DA) highlighted this concern, emphasizing the importance of establishing an independent NPA.
He stated, “We must be worried that there’s a disconnect between the remarks of the Zondo Commission about the importance of establishing an independent NPA versus the envisaged work as set out by the department and this government.”
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP, Steve Swart, expressed disappointment that there wasn’t enough time to address the issue of NPA independence within the current bill. He acknowledged that constitutional amendments would be necessary to achieve this, but regretted that this would be postponed until after the upcoming elections.
Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery, defended the decision, stating, “Those are all issues that are quite complicated, it needs to be reflected on, deliberated on, and will take time, particularly if they involve constitutional amendments.”
Glynnis Breytenbach of the DA raised a pertinent issue, drawing from historical examples. She argued that an Investigating Directorate housed within the NPA might not be truly independent. She cited the fate of the former Investigating Directorate, the Directorate for Special Operations (Scorpions), which was disbanded when it pursued politicians aggressively.
This raises questions about the autonomy of the NPA in investigating and prosecuting cases involving powerful individuals and entities. Without true independence, the NPA may struggle to hold those responsible for corruption and State Capture accountable.
Time is of the Essence
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is racing against time to pass the NPA Amendment Bill before the current Parliament’s term concludes, ahead of next year’s general elections. The closing date for public submissions on the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill is the 6th of October.
It is crucial for South Africans to voice their opinions and concerns during this period. The bill’s limitations in addressing NPA independence need to be discussed and debated extensively to ensure that the NPA can effectively combat State Capture in the future.
The National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill is a significant step in South Africa’s fight against State Capture. However, it is essential to address concerns about the independence of the NPA to ensure that it can function effectively and without political interference. Public input during the comment period is a valuable opportunity for citizens to contribute to the improvement of this critical legislation. Together, we can work towards a more transparent and accountable future for South Africa.