12 October 2018

South Africa: New Life for Bosasa Prosecution After 8-Year Delay

Eight years after the NPA and the Hawks were first presented with allegations of bribery and corruption involving prison officials and facilities management company Bosasa, prosecutors will finally have the tools they need to bring the case to court.

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, or the Hawks, confirmed to News24 that long-outstanding forensic reports have now been finalised.

The NPA has blamed the lack of prosecution on this delay by the Hawks.

Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi told News24 on Thursday that the delays were caused by issues with paying the forensic service providers, which had now been resolved.

The final reports had been obtained and Mulaudzi agreed the matter should be before court "soon".

In 2009, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) finalised a report into alleged tender rigging involving Bosasa directors and CEO Gavin Watson and the Department of Correctional Services.

Bosasa had allegedly bribed former prisons boss Linda Mti and the department's chief financial officer, Patrick Gillingham, to secure four tenders between 2004 and 2007 worth roughly R1.5bn, including the supply of televisions and fencing at prisons around the country, the SIU found.

The SIU report was handed over to the NPA in 2010, and a docket registered at the same time.

To date, none of the accused - who have all steadfastly maintained their innocence - have had their day in court.

Self-created

News24 has established that, between mid-2010 and February 2016, the lead prosecutor assigned to the Bosasa matter was advocate Marijke de Kock, a deputy director of public prosecutions in the Serious Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU) in Pretoria.

Internal NPA documents and interviews with senior NPA bosses show that De Kock may be directly responsible for the delay.

Within months of receiving the SIU report, De Kock identified serious issues with its contents, calling it unreliable and saying it would not stand up to scrutiny in a criminal court.

This is contained in a memorandum dated November 17, 2010, which was forwarded to then national director of public prosecutions (NDPP), advocate Menzi Simelane.

"The SIU report would appear to have been drafted in a careless and almost casual fashion," De Kock wrote in 2010.

"The lack of accuracy and precision with the drafting of the report will give ample opportunity to those seeking to fault it."

De Kock added that the issues with the report created a dilemma by "casting doubt on the reliability" of the report. She refused to respond to detailed questions.

De Kock was removed from the case in February 2016 by another former NDPP, advocate Shaun Abrahams, due to his unhappiness over the lack of progress.

Not rocket science

An SIU source with close knowledge of the SIU investigation into Bosasa and the subsequent report told News24 this week that the report was reliable.

The source agreed that some further criminal investigation was required for the matter to be brought to trial, but that it was not "rocket science".

NPA officials with knowledge of the matter said De Kock was quizzed by the then acting head of the SCCU, Lawrence Mrwebi, in January 2013 as to why a mandate for the forensic investigation had not been finalised at the very start of the case in 2010.

"She knew that these forensic investigations usually take a long time," the NPA official told News24.

It was put to De Kock that senior NPA officials had referred to her as "incompetent" during interviews with News24. She did not respond, but another NPA official speaking on condition of anonymity defended De Kock.

"She is a very careful prosecutor. But she has always maintained that the Bosasa case must and will be prosecuted. There was a lot of interference in this case," the official said.

Last month, during a wide-ranging interview over the Bosasa matter and allegations that De Kock had interfered to delay it, head of the National Prosecuting Service, advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, blamed De Kock for the delay.

"The person who messed up on this case is Marijke," Jiba told News24. She later added that as the lead prosecutor, De Kock did not lead the case.

Jiba denied any wrongdoing and said that she should be credited for bringing the matter up during her tenure as acting NDPP and pushing for it to be finalised. Otherwise the matter "would still be gathering dust".

Source: News24

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