15 February 2013

South Africa: Criminal Justice Appointments, More Words, No Action

Photo: GCIS
The Parliament of South Africa.

press release

Yesterday, in the State of the Nation address, President Zuma yet again passed up an opportunity to convince South Africans that he really is serious about acting against crime and corruption. Amongst his many generalised statements, he said that "we will fill all vacant posts at the upper echelons of the criminal justice system". Yet he failed to give any indication of when.

The President needs to act on this matter with the sense of urgency it deserves and make these crucial appointments without delay.

He must prioritise appointing a National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and a permanent head of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU). The SIU has been without a permanent head for 14 months. The NPA has had an acting head since December 2011, and the Simelane case was finalised by the Constitutional Court in October last year.

Both these positions are critical for the effective functioning of the justice system, and especially the fight against corruption.

Last night would have been the ideal time to announce that these positions will be filled by people the country can trust to act impartially and without fear or favour. Instead, the President focussed on how many proclamations he had signed for the SIU since 2009, and how many staff are in the unit. He made no mention of any concrete action to address the unsatisfactory state of affairs within the unit.

The fact that the President did not announce these crucial appointments says much more about his commitment to fighting corruption than the platitudes he offered up last night.

Debbie Schafer, Shadow Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development

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