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South Africa - Corruption

South Africa’s High Court ruled April 29, 2016 that state prosecutors must revisit a decision in 2009 to drop nearly 800 corruption-related charges against President Jacob Zuma. The move cranked up the political heat on Zuma amid a barrage of other corruption scandals. The High Court’s ruling could clear the way for President Jacob Zuma to again be charged with 783 counts of criminal offenses for alleged kickbacks in the 1999 arms deal.

This is just the latest in a recent string of scandals for Zuma. Opposition MP’s tried to impeach him earlier in April 2016 after the Constitutional Court ordered Zuma to pay back some $20 million in public funds used for non-security related upgrades to his private home.

Allegations of corruption in the public tendering process persist in South Africa at all levels of government, despite the country's excellent anti-corruption regulatory framework, as highlighted by the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004. The office of the Public Protector, among other agencies, is tasked with conducting independent investigations into allegations of official corruption, and is widely respected for its effectiveness and impartiality. The Public Protector conducted an extended investigation into public spending on President Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, which has increased the public dialogue around corruption.

South Africa has an excellent anti-corruption regulatory framework, highlighted by the passage of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004. In 2010 and 2011 the government intensified anti-corruption efforts. While the newly formed priority crimes unit, known as the “Hawks”, thus far is still deemed less effective than the unit it replaced in 2009 (the “Scorpions”), it has arrested a number of white collar criminals for banking irregularities and fraud. Despite the advances against corruption, allegations of corruption in the public tendering process persist, including at the provincial and municipal levels.

The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, and the government continued efforts to curb corruption; however, the World Bank’s most recent Worldwide Governance Indicators reflected that corruption remained a problem. In August 2010 President Zuma announced the start of an investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) of five ministries, two provincial departments, and the South African Social Security Agency. The investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

Fighting corruption and fraud in the public service remains high on the government's agenda, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan told Parliament on 24 February 2011, warning that South Africa would not tolerate losing billions of rands in maladministration. "Public procurement plays a significant part in the economy and is central to government service delivery," Gordhan said during his Budget speech in Cape Town. "However, citizens and taxpayers do not get full value for money, because this is an area vulnerable to waste and corruption. This compromises the integrity of governance and frustrates the pace of service delivery."

There were 53 investigations involving procurement irregularities in the public service, pertaining to contracts worth R3-billion at that time. The Department of Justice had recently reported that 65 people linked to some of these investigations had been arrested and brought before the courts. More than R250-million had been seized by the state. The South African Revenue Service (Sars) is also investigating another nine cases of tender fraud, with a total value of approximately R1.7-billion.

In 2010 the Department of Public Works signed a controversial 500 million rand ($61.9 million) lease agreement to house the new South African Police Services Headquarters. Allegations of improper procurement procedure involving police commissioner Bheki Cele and Minister of Public Works Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde arose and prompted the public protector to report the incident. The initial report of the probe indicated that both Cele and Mahlangu-Nkabinde were responsible for irregularities with the lease agreement. On 03 March 2011, SAPS members allegedly looking for evidence related to the controversial lease agreement raided the Cape Town offices of the public protector. Senior SAPS officials condemned the raid and claimed that they did not sanction it. On 24 October 2011, President Jacob Zuma replaced Mahlangu-Nkabinde. The public protector accused her of wrongdoing for her role in a lease deal. President Zuma also announced the creation of a board of inquiry to investigate the allegations and suspended Commissioner Cele pending the outcome of the inquiry.

On 24 October 2011, the president replaced Minister of Cooperative Governance Sicelo Shiceka. The Office of the Public Protector accused Shiceka of spending more than 500,000 rand ($61,880) on unsanctioned luxury travel, including visits to a girlfriend imprisoned in Switzerland for drug smuggling.

In August 2010 Minister of Human Settlements Tokyo Sexwale announced his department had recovered 44 million rand ($5.4 million) and arrested 1,910 government officials who were illegally benefitting from housing subsidies. In November 2010 President Zuma signed a proclamation authorizing an SIU investigation into alleged financial irregularities in all 24 municipalities in North West Province; the investigation was ongoing at 2011 end.

Corruption remained a problem within prisons, although most correctional officials were either suspended or fired following an investigation. According to the 2010-11 DCS annual report, the department conducted 4,074 disciplinary hearings for various offences and dismissed 88 staff members. According to the 2010-11 JICS report, there were 2,646 complaints of corruption during its annual reporting period. At least 10 agencies, including the SIU, the Public Service Commission, the Office of the Public Prosecutor, and the Office of the Auditor General were involved in anticorruption activities.

The SIU investigated corruption in government departments and identified civil servants alleged to have improperly received state housing subsidies. The government took administrative action to recover these subsidies. In 2009 the government announced that a special SIU team dedicated to investigating housing fraud would investigate 800 officials at the national and provincial level and 123 in local government for corruption. SIU investigations into the Department of Public Works were ongoing. The SIU was investigating 41 tenders with a total value of three billion rand ($371 million).

The Office of the Public Protector investigated government abuse and mismanagement and served as the office of last resort for citizens reporting unfair treatment by government entities. The office handled an increasing number of complaints but was hampered by severe resource constraints. Public officials were subject to financial disclosure laws, and most officials complied, although not always in a timely manner.

On 23 September 2013, the Gauteng North High Court reinstated corruption charges against Richard Mdluli, the head of SAPS Crime Intelligence Division. Mdluli appealed the decision to reinstate the charges, and the case continued at year’s end. Mdluli allegedly used state funds to pay for his private automobile and registered his relatives, girlfriends, and their families as covert intelligence operatives in order to pay them. The NPA’s specialized commercial crimes unit in 2011 dropped charges against Mdluli for lack of evidence.

On 08 July 2013, former communications minister Dina Pule was fired from her position after failing to declare the interests of her boyfriend Phosane Mngqibisa. Pule was alleged to have funneled several contracts and government resources to her boyfriend through the International Communications Technology indaba (tradeshow). Pule was removed as communications minister but retained her position in parliament. On August 8, the Parliamentary Ethics Committee found her guilty of breaching the code of conduct, fined her one-month’s salary, and suspended her from parliament for 15 days.

In April 2012 the public protector released a report that accused the Moqhaka Municipality in Free State Province of approving a grant of 500,000 rand ($50,000) to local political parties before the 2009 national election in contravention of the constitution. According to the report, the municipality paid as much as 398,000 rand ($39,800) of the grant to political parties in proportion to their voter support. A DA member of parliament who had accepted the money, but put it in escrow pending the outcome of the investigation, referred the case to the public protector. The public protector required the municipality to recover the funds and take administrative action against the municipal manager who allotted the funds.

Corruption remained a problem within prisons. According to the 2012-13 DCS annual report, the department conducted 3,101 misconduct and disciplinary hearings for various offences and dismissed 121 staff members. According to the 2012-13 JICS report, there were 1,460 complaints of corruption during the annual reporting period. At least 10 agencies, including the SAPS Special Investigation Unit, Public Service Commission, Office of the Public Prosecutor, and Office of the Auditor General, were involved in anticorruption activities.

The Office of the Public Protector, which collaborated with civil society, investigated government abuse and mismanagement and served as the office of last resort for citizens reporting unfair treatment by government entities. Despite inadequate funding, the office investigated thousands of cases during the year, including several high-profile cases involving the president, and it was considered independent and effective.

South African President Jacob Zuma did not expect the refrain of his re-election campaign to become "If you're number one, you get to drive the gravy train." But those are the words of a popular parody song that tears down the president as he tried to get himself re-elected in May 2014. The president was running for his second term as head of the ruling African National Congress, the party that has held power since the first post-apartheid elections in 1994.

Zuma was immersed in a scandal over large-scale improvements he made to his private home with public funds. Zuma had already weathered a previous corruption case in which the charges were dropped. He was also acquitted of rape in another case. In November 2012, Mr Zuma told Parliament: "Let me make one thing quite clear … my residence in Nkandla has been paid for by the Zuma family. All the buildings and every room we use in that residence was built by ourselves as a family, and not by government. I have never asked government to build a home for me and it has not done so, the government has not built a home for me."

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s long-awaited, 400-page report on Nkandla, titled Secure in Comfort, was released 24 March 2014. South Africa’s anti-corruption czar said the president committed an ethical lapse when he used about $23 million in government money for what the president described as security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. The state paid about $2.9 million for security upgrades at President Nelson Mandela’s two private residences. The report said the upgrades -- which include a swimming pool, a cattle enclosure, a chicken run a visitors’ center and an amphitheater -- went beyond what was reasonably required for a president’s security. The anti-corruption office has demanded that Zuma repay some of the costs.

The opposition Democratic Alliance said it would call for formal impeachment proceedings in hope of unseating the president and preventing him from ever holding public office again. Party spokesman Mmusi Maimane says, “Our view is that the building of the Nkandla homestead, the home of President Jacob Zuma, is in fact a violation of the code of ethics in terms of how leaders must behave in executive office, and therefore President Zuma, in our view, he is not fit to lead this country, for he has failed to protect the assets of this country."

Zuma did not respond to the public protector's report and directive that public money was spent in his private home security upgrade and to that extent he must pay back. In September 2014 opposition parties withdrew from the committee dealing with upgrades to Zuma's homestead, saying they would not legitimise a process they claimed was designed to shield him from liability for alleged abuse of state funds. They walked out after the ruling party refused to agree to call Zuma to answer questions and to enforce Madonsela's directive that he pay for luxuries added to his home.

South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on 31 March 2016 proposed a motion in parliament to impeach President Jacob Zuma. The move followed a Constitutional Court ruling Thursday that said Zuma should pay part of the $16 million of public funds used to renovate his private home in Nkandla, according to James Selfe, chairman of the DA's federal executive, which deals with legal matters. Supporters of the ANC say it is unlikely the party's lawmakers will back the impeachment proceedings against Zuma. They cited previous attempts by the opposition DA after it moved a vote of no confidence in Zuma, which eventually failed.

South Africa's top court ruled 31 March 2016 that Zuma did violate the constitution by ignoring the state anti-corruption agency's recommendation that he return part of the $20 million spent on his home improvements. Under the court's ruling, the national treasury will decide which of the upgrades at Zuma's house were related to security, and will order Zuma to reimburse the cost of any other expenses, such as the swimming pool and a cattle enclosure. On April 01, 2016 President Zuma apologized for spending more than $20 million in state funds on his private residence, but he did not, as some had predicted, offer to step down to atone for his actions.

On April 21, 2016 Zuma said there was "no undue or improper influence" in a government arms deal in the late 1990s. Zuma, who had once been implicated in the allegations around the Strategic Arms Procurement Package, usually known simply as "the arms deal," made the announcement Thursday on national television. He said an independent commission found "not a single iota of evidence" that any of the officials involved in the deal accepted any bribes. Zuma was accused in 2005 of some 780 charges of corruption related to the deal. The charges were withdrawn three years later, and Zuma, who had been fired as deputy to President Thabo Mbeki, became head of the African National Congress and was elected president in 2009.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2016 20:10:26 ZULU