In recent years South Africa has experienced several commissions of inquiry, set up by President Jacob Zuma to investigate important matters such as the arms deal.
However, South Africans looking for some form of justice have been disappointed. The arms deal commission, particularly, was dismissed as a cover-up, and Corruption Watch and the Right2Know Campaign have challenged its findings in court.
Any real attempt to join the dots and truly understand the origins and legacy of economic crime in South Africa requires that we tell a longer story. This allows us to develop an understanding of the network behind these crimes. This network of corporations, politicians, spies, and bankers has morphed and changed, but its modus operandi has remained the same: when in doubt, break the law.
A report soon to be launched, titled Joining the Dots, will coincide with the People's Tribunal on Economic Crime. The report will attempt to start to join the dots between apartheid era economic crimes, the 1999 arms deal, all the way to contemporary state capture – thus exposing these networks of criminality, and contributing to accountability.
Laying bare the secrets
The tribunal, meanwhile, is driven by civil society and kicks off on 3 February at Constitution Hill. Its aim is to fill in for the failure of state institutions to fully investigate allegations of corruption and state capture and to hold those involved – whether corporate, political or individual – to account.
People's tribunals have been led by citizens and civil society for over four decades to address human rights abuses and war crimes in many contexts, including Palestine and Indonesia. The South African people's tribunal will be the first of its kind to focus primarily on economic crimes and corruption.
From 3-7 February, the tribunal will examine the continuities between apartheid-era economic crime; the post-apartheid arms deal and contemporary state capture. The first hearings will focus on the arms trade over the past 40 years.
This evidence will be led before a panel of six esteemed adjudicators including Zak Yacoob, Navi Pillay, Dinga Sikwebu, Mandisa Dyantyi, Yasmin Sooka and Allyson Maynard Gibson.
The tribunal's organising committee comprises a range of civil society organisations, including Corruption Watch, the Foundation for Human Rights, Open Secrets, Public Affairs Research Institute and the Right2Know Campaign.
Some of the questions scheduled to be explored include:Which French company – also named as an apartheid accomplice – stands accused of bribing President Zuma in the arms deal?Which banks supported the apartheid state despite the embargo?
- What role has the deep state – corporations, security forces, bankers, spies and middlemen – played in state capture during apartheid and after 1994 in South Africa?
- Why did the democratic South African government agree to spend R30-billion on weapons in 1999, contrary to its own stated social-spending priorities?
- Where does Denel fit in to the broader story of state capture in South Africa?
- What role do the professional services – bankers, lawyers and accountants – play in facilitating economic crime and corruption?
- Why have we had seven heads of the National Prosecuting Authority in just 14 years?
Follow the People's Tribunal as it delves into these important matters, as this is one way that citizens can take action by collecting, discussing and publicising evidence that can be used to hold those responsible to account.