FUL Mourns the Death of George Bizos

It is with the greatest sadness that Freedom Under Law (FUL) marks the death of board member, George Bizos. George was, in every sense, a majestic South African. He showed, at every turn, what law should and could be: humane, principled, decent, just. He will be remembered for his outsized role in opposing Apartheid’s injustices and in ushering in a new constitutional democracy. But his commitment to justice went far beyond South Africa’s borders. We at FUL will remember him, only a few years back, sitting in a magistrate’s court in Harare offering support and solidarity to those who faced politically motivated charges there.

George dedicates his book Odyssey to Freedom to “those who let me walk with them.” Hamba kahle, George. Now go walk among the giants.

FUL Concerned at Corruption at Highest Levels of Namibian Government

5 December 2019

Freedom Under Law (FUL) views with deep concern the implications for the rule of law throughout the region of this week’s revelations of corruption at the highest levels of government in Namibia, as uncovered in the Al Jazeera documentary, Anatomy of a Bribe.

The investigation reflects ruthless misuse of one of Namibia’s important natural resources (its fishing industry is valued at yielding USD 750 million in revenue per year). Using what it presents as detailed banking and other records and hidden camera recordings of secret meetings it provides a shocking example of how corruption-enablers in the region simultaneously impoverish ordinary people, enrich themselves, and strip Africa’s natural resources.

Among those alleged to be involved are a multinational Icelandic fishing company, Namibian ministers, officials and lawyers, front companies as well as Angolan interests. FUL applauds the decisive action taken by Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Commission, its police and prosecuting authority in within days arresting and charging two Ministers of State and senior officials.

Of particular concern to FUL is the crucial enabling role also alleged to have been played by private legal practitioners in making the fraudulent and corrupt schemes possible by acting as conduits and facilitators. FUL calls upon the Namibian Law Society to follow the example of the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission in without delay investigating the latter allegations. They concern the former (as Attorney General) chief law officer and thereafter Minister of Justice, as well as a senior Windhoek private law firm. 

So far as FUL is aware the Namibian Law Society has yet to speak a word or take a step, except to note that it has received no formal complaint against any legal practitioner. In the face of such damning allegations against some of the most prominent members of the legal profession in Namibia that seems an entirely inadequate response. Prompt and resolute investigative and disciplinary action by the watchdog of the legal profession, protector of the public and ally of the administration of justice in Namibia, the Law Society of Namibia, is now required.

FUL Welcomes Conviction of Richard Mdluli, former head of Crime Intelligence

31 July 2019

Yesterday General Richard Mdluli, former head of Crime Intelligence in the SAPS, was convicted in the High Court, Johannesburg on counts of kidnapping, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, assault and intimidation.

This follows a series of legal challenges, over several years, by Freedom Under Law to decisions which would have given Gen Mdluli impunity and kept him in his crucial post.  The charges against Gen Mdluli relating to kidnapping and assault of Oupa Ramogiba had initially been withdrawn by prosecutors Chauke and Jiba, while fraud and corruption charges were withdrawn by prosecutor Mrwebi.  Justice Makgoba initially granted Freedom Under Law an urgent order directing that Gen Mdluli stand down from his position pending the determination of a review of that decision.
In doing so, the Court stressed that a constitutional democracy could not tolerate a situation in which one of the country’s key crimefighters continued to perform his daily functions while himself facing serious allegations of criminality. That Gen Mdluli had not been finally convicted of these grave crimes was not the issue.

In due course Freedom Under Law’s review of the prosecutors’ decision too was upheld.

Gen Mdluli’s trial ensued, and has extended over a lengthy period, culminating in yesterday’s conviction by Justice Mokgatlheng.
While it is unfortunate that the charges of fraud and corruption were not reinstated by the NPA, it is an important vindication of the rule of law that one of South Africa’s most senior police officers has been held accountable for some of the crimes he has committed.

It is a cause for reflection that had Freedom Under Law, one of a group of civil society watchdogs active in this way, not challenged the decisions to withdraw charges and to keep Gen Mdluli at his desk, his impunity would have been assured.

Public Protector’s Report on Early Retirement an Attempt to Reheat a Long Cold Dish, says FUL

25 May 2019 

Freedom Under Law (FUL) is dismayed but not surprised to learn of the Public Protector’s findings in respect of Mr Ivan Pillay’s early retirement and Minister Pravin Gordhan’s authorisation of the retirement. The matters canvassed in the Public Protector’s report are the exact same matters as those which frame one of the most notorious episodes in the National Prosecuting Authority’s history – the decision to charge and then ultimately ignominiously withdraw charges against Gordhan, Pillay and former SARS Commissioner, Oupa Magashula.

This attempt to reheat a long cold dish and serve it up to the public as evidence of wrongdoing is on its own alarming. But that the Public Protector releases her report a mere two days after receiving responses from the implicated parties – failing to meaningfully engage those responses – makes a mockery of the most basic tenets of justice.

She does so in a week in which a court has found in respect of another of her investigations that: “the Public Protector did nothing to assure the public that she kept an open and enquiring mind and that she discovered, or at least attempted to discover the truth.”

With this her latest report, the Public Protector yet again makes no pretence of what she is about.   

FUL Welcomes Decision to Remove Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi

26 April 2019

Freedom Under Law (FUL) believes that the decision of the President to remove Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi from their positions at the National Prosecuting Authority, in keeping with the recommendations contained in the report issued by the Mokgoro Enquiry, offers an opportunity for restoration of public confidence and trust in that embattled institution.

Under the leadership of new National Director of Public Prosecution (NDPP) Shamila Batohi, the NPA can today begin in earnest a process of rebuilding the institution, free of the corrupting influences of Ms Jiba and Mr Mrwebi. As the report of the Mokgoro Enquiry makes clear, not only were Ms Jiba and Mr Mrwebi found unfit to hold office but showed themselves not to have the integrity, conscientiousness and scrupulous honesty required of such senior officials in an institution so important to our constitutional democracy. 

As is evident from the report and other information publicly disclosed about the workings of the NPA during Ms Jiba and Mr Mrwebi’s time there, they were not the only officials responsible for wrongdoing. But they were central to the wrongdoing and in sidelining and in several instances persecuting those employees within the NPA intent on performing their constitutional operations, Jiba and Mrwebi’s corrupting influence was magnified. Freed of their presence, decent people in the NPA may now get on with their jobs and the tasks required by our Constitution.

FUL Concerned at Reports of Mass Surveillance of Law-Abiding Persons, Including its CEO

12 March 2019

According to a news report yesterday, the State Security Agency under the command of former President Zuma subjected numbers of private individuals to unlawful surveillance. These included Nicole Fritz, the Executive Officer of Freedom Under Law.

The suggestion that either Ms Fritz or FUL warranted surveillance is not only preposterous but profoundly disturbing. The pursuit of a perfectly law-abiding person and an equally respectable Rule of Law agency reflects an alarming level of paranoia among our securocrats. 

It also reveals a frightening lack of judgment and common-sense on the part of those entrusted with our national security if they cannot recognise the lawful activities of public-interest agencies such as Freedom Under Law. Beside all else, it represents an unforgivable wastage of resources.
Much more ominously, it reveals a deep-seated contempt for the Constitution and the human rights it guarantees. 

Civil Society Condemn Attacks on Zondo Commission

27 November 2018

We, civil society organisations in South Africa, express our deep concern at the attacks made in recent days on the State Capture Commission by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

 Such attacks include statements by EFF leader Julius Malema in which he:

  • Described the Commission as a “Mickey Mouse Show”;
  • Accused its chairperson of stealing money from the poor;
  • Referred to the evidence leader of the Commission as “a bastard’;
  • Referred to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan as “a dog of white monopoly capital”, threatened that there could be “loss of life”, and falsely claimed that Gordhan has a hatred for black people; and
  • Falsely accused Gordhan’s daughter of securing through her father, and benefiting from, government business

Civil society is the first to recognise that a robust, healthy democracy requires competing views and protest. However, expression and protest action that threatens violence and harm, that looks to flirt with racist and bigoted sentiment and with hate speech can only erode our constitutional democracy, not strengthen it. Repeated, unsubstantiated claims, in addition to being all of that mentioned above, reveal an agenda that goes beyond criticism of the commission. It smacks of a deliberate attempt to undermine it and the participants who are uncovering the web of state capture and corruption.

Processes of governance, including commissions of enquiry, should not be insulated from considered criticism.  However, the threats contained in the EFF’s utterances not only place those witnesses who have testified before the commission and its officials in harm’s way, but will also have a chilling effect on any potential witnesses who may have information that could assist the Commission. This could render the work of the Commission meaningless, and help the culprits involved in state capture walk free without being investigated or called to account.

There is understandably great interest in the Commission’s proceedings. It has the potential not only to lay bare which parts of our constitutional state have been hollowed out, how this came about and who is responsible but what the cost has been for ordinary South Africans. Its recommendations may be critical to future protection of our democracy and realising the promise of our Constitution for all South Africans. It is clear that the evidence laid before the commission will result in prosecutions, which may explain the level of vitriol against witnesses. Full assessment of whether the Commission delivers on this potential can only be made at its conclusion.

In this context, the onslaught by the EFF in the media and outside the venue of the Commission, combined with a relentless social media campaign, shows that they are intent on drowning out and forcing a shutdown of the work of the Commission. This is an attack on our very democracy, and must be strenuously resisted. We call on the EFF, if it is possession of incriminating evidence relating to state capture and corruption, to make a full disclosure and present it to the Commission. In the same vein, we urge the Commission to use the powers at its disposal to compel persons who claim to have relevant incriminating evidence, to appear before it.

We as a society have sacrificed too much, and our people denied the basic necessities of life for too long, to not insist that the Commission’s work is taken to a proper conclusion.

Issued by:

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

Corruption Watch

Freedom Under Law

Helen Suzman Foundation

Johannesburg Against  Injustice

Section 27

ANN CROTTY: How we were saved from Sassa

25 October 2018

It’s chilling to think where we might be without an active civil society

You know you’ve done a pretty good job as a crisis committee when nobody notices you’ve stopped doing it. The experts appointed by the Constitutional Court to save the country from the consequences of chronic mismanagement by the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) were of course tagged as a panel, not a crisis committee. But let’s face it, they were sent in to sort out a crisis. This month they presented their 10th and final report to the court. It was as insightful, detailed and instructive as the previous nine. By their own admission the problems at Sassa are far from over; Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) is still clinging onto about 2-million beneficiaries through EasyPay Everywhere cards, and they indicate the new Sassa contract with the SA Post Office is deeply problematic. The panel has serious reservations about the Post Office’s ability to do the job expected of it. The first of the panel’s reports was delivered to the court in September 2017 and gave the remarkably refreshing …


FUL Welcomes Costs Order Against Minister Bathabile Dlamini

28 September 2018

Freedom Under Law (FUL) welcomes the judgment of the Constitutional Court delivered yesterday, ordering Minister Bathabile Dlamini to personally pay costs incurred by Black Sash and FUL in their litigation relating to the first extension of the Cash Paymaster Services contract for payment of social grants. The Court also ordered that a copy of the judgment and of the report issued by Judge Ngoepe as to Minister Dlamini’s personal liability for the social grants crisis be forwarded to the National Director of Public Prosecutions for determination as to whether Minister Dlamini should be prosecuted for perjury.

FUL believes the judgement to be an important vindication of accountability, sorely needed in the country at this time. 
However, the judgement cannot stand on its own. FUL notes that the judgment envisages an important accountability role for the NDPP in this matter and recalls that another very recent Constitutional Court judgment ordered the President to appoint a new NDPP within 90 days. It is imperative that a new head of the NPA, able to restore credibility and integrity to the institution, be installed as quickly as possible not only so that the full measure of accountability might be secured in this matter but for so many other matters clamouring for accountability in the country today.  

FUL Welcomes Con Court Judgment Finding Shaun Abrahams’ Appointment Invalid

13 August 2018

Freedom Under Law (FUL) welcomes the judgment delivered today by the Constitutional Court in which it held that the termination of Mr Mxolisi Nxasana’s position as National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) and the monetary settlement granted him were constitutionally invalid and that the subsequent appointment of Mr Shaun Abrahams as NDPP was also invalid. It also welcomes the Court’s order that the President is to appoint a new NDPP within 90 days.

FUL, together with Corruption Watch, brought the initial application to challenge the termination and settlement, believing these subverted the independence of the NDPP and the NPA. FUL is confident today’s judgment holds out the prospect of a reconstructed, revitalised NPA, with persons of unimpeachable integrity at its helm, able to fully play its vital role in securing criminal justice and constitutional democracy and with the public’s confidence that it is able to dispense justice without fear or favour.

FUL salutes Mr Nxasana, without whose assistance the true record of then President Zuma’s efforts to oust him from office would never have been disclosed. It will watch with interest the appointment of the next NDPP.