South Africa: NPA Tackling Impunity and Corruption - NDPP Batohi

National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Advocate Shamila Batohi, says the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is working to make sure that "the taps of corruption are closed".

She was speaking during a media briefing on Monday to update the nation on matters pertaining to the prosecutions authority.

Batohi likened fighting corruption to it being a marathon towards the full service of justice in the country.

"We are on the right track and despite important progress, we are far from where we want to be but we are on this journey. But what is clear is that impunity is no longer a given. The taps of corruption... are being closed and that's the reality. There are important cases... that have been brought to court that demonstrates this. It demonstrates that the rule of law in our country is our guiding light," she said.

The NPA head said although corruption has always been a top priority for the prosecutions authority, even more emphasis is being put on this with several units within the NPA and other stakeholders working together to combat the scourge.

Batohi added that the NPA's corruption fighting efforts have been bolstered by the specialised commercial crimes court, the establishment of corruption courts like the Special Tribunal and creation of anti-corruption hotlines.

"This intervention has ensured that with regard to government corruption, it improves from 31 convictions last year to 53 convictions at the end of quarter two this year and private sector corruption cases increased from 68 to 84," she said.

Organised crime

Batohi revealed that in terms of organised criminal activities such as those of gangs in the Western Cape "significant arrests and prosecutions" are proceeding.

However, she warned that crime intelligence needs to be upped in order to keep nailing criminals.

"The reality is that without good crime intelligence and properly identified project driven investigations, we will lose the fight against organised crime. So there really needs to be a lot of work that goes into making sure that the true organised criminals are brought to book and not the runners on the ground," she said.

Batohi said the NPA is working with the South African Police Service to combat these syndicates in areas including cable theft, damage to infrastructure and illicit mining.

"So it's really important that law enforcement is able to capacitate itself with the necessary expertise including cyber experts in order to deal with these organised crime challenges that face our country, including illicit export markets and to get to the real syndicate leaders," she said.

Gender based violence

Batohi announced that by the end of quarter two, the NPA had scored a sexual offences conviction rate of almost 73% with high sentences meted out to perpetrators.

She said about 16 000 victims and survivors received services at Thuthuzela Care Centres sites.

"We have really good conviction rates but that's only with regard to cases that come to the court. Otherwise, if you look at the conviction rate vis-à-vis the number of reported case, it's really quite low," she said.

The NPA said, however, that society needs to also help law enforcement fight gender based violence and femicide.

"We are still nowhere near dealing with sexual and gender abuse in this country and the reality is that law enforcement [alone] is not going to be able to deal with this matter. We really need a whole of society approach so that we deal with why these offences are being committed," she said.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission matters

The head of the NPA said the authority is acutely aware of the importance of resolving prosecutorial matters that have emanated from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

She said a new portfolio has been set up in the National Prosecuting Service of the NPA "to deal specifically with matters that emanate from the TRC".

So far, she added, at least 59 cases are being investigated by this portfolio with 56 other matters to be referred.

"The NPA recognises the historical importance of thorough and proper investigation of matters and the need for dedicated prosecutors to deal with these matters. What we've done is... to get a deviation from the Department of Public Service and Administration in order to hire prosecutors on contract for a period of three years who are dealing exclusively with TRC matters.

"We've put in place structures to do to this. We are looking at ensuring that we have quality investigations, we are also looking at training for investigators," she said.

Batohi said the NPA recognises that "time is running out" for the victims of Apartheid crimes and assured that the authority remains cognisant of its "duty to assist families to ensure that matters are decided upon and that there is justice for families".

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