Civil Society Demands Accountability for State Capture Criminals

22 July 2021

The Civil Society Working Group on State Capture has called for the accountability of criminals fingered in the State Capture Commission of Inquiry led by deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. 

The group says that the recent unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng is a direct result of the criminality of the State Capture actors and that not only the rioters and looters needed to face the law, but also those implicated in corruption at the commission.

The organisations say that the capacity of state institutions has already been weakened and that the effect of the looting will have far-reaching effects that go beyond just financial consequences.

The full statement reads:

Show us the receipts!

The recent tragic days of violence in South Africa are, in large part, a legacy of State Capture. The Civil Society Working Group on State Capture (CSWG) calls on state institutions to hold accountable the individuals and groups instrumental in the instigation of violence and looting in KZN, Gauteng and across South Africa. However, we believe it would be wrong for law enforcement to only criminalise individuals involved in riots when the perpetrators of State Capture have not yet been held accountable. We again call for the powerful corporations and individuals who looted and enabled State Capture to be held to account and brought to book. Rebuilding the country demands that this be done.

These perpetrators of economic crimes profited from their misdeeds for over 10 years while neglecting the provision of basic services to the people of South Africa. This created the conditions for political manipulation, greed and food riots, linked to hunger and poverty, with the lives of many lost in the unrest. which started 10 days ago. The enablers of State Capture are responsible for creating the environment in which we find ourselves today, through weakening the country’s democratic institutions, eroding state capacity and selfishly robbing the country of its much-needed resources. The criminality and corrupt actions of these powerful corporations, politicians and individuals have been instrumental in driving people into grinding poverty and deepened inequality and unemployment.

The consequences of the looting have been dire and extend beyond financial loss. The capacity of the state has been severely eroded, the economy weakened with revenue short-falls and dysfunctional state-owned entities that are diverting funds away from social spending where it is most needed. It is unconscionable that constitutionally enshrined human rights such as healthcare, social security, housing and basic education, have been compromised because of the actions of corrupt individuals.

The struggle against State Capture and corruption in South Africa is a struggle for human rights. The ongoing revelations at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture (the Zondo Commission) continue to lay bare the various networks of looters in the public and private sector who have criminally enriched themselves at the expense of the most vulnerable.

Now is also the time to ensure that swift and decisive action is taken to remove and hold to account compromised individuals that remain within key state institutions, some of whom were strategically placed and continue to stall efforts towards justice, accountability and the rule of law. Many of them remain part of the fight-back network that hopes to again profit from the chaos that has erupted this month.

The Civil Society Working Group on State Capture again reiterates that law enforcement agencies should focus their attention on the individuals and corporations who have either allegedly been complicit in State Capture or might have information that can assist the state in challenging the State Capture networks.

Endorsed by: 

  • Ahmed Kathrada Foundation (AKF)
  • Black Sash (BS) 
  • Centre for Applied Legal Studies (Cals)
  • Corruption Watch (CW)
  • Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac)
  • Dullah Omar Institute (DOI)
  • Equal Education (EE)
  • Freedom Under Law (FUL)
  • Judges Matter (JM)
  • Legal Resources Centre (LRC)
  • MyVoteCounts (MVC)
  • Open Secrets (OS)
  • Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa)
  • Public Affairs Research Institute (Pari)
  • Right2Know (R2K)
  • Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
  • SECTION27 (S27)

This piece was first published in the Daily Maverick, on the 21 July 2021, available here.

A Wasteful Approach to a Constitution Full of Promise

27 March 2021

Those gathered at Constitutional Hill this past Monday, Human Rights Day, did so carrying placards which proclaimed: “defend our democracy” and “defend our Constitution.”

We were there to lend support to a campaign that seeks to resist the everyday sabotage of our constitution by actors not limited to but certainly epitomised by former President Jacob Zuma and those who align with him.

Covid demanded concessions of the gathering: numbers were limited, masks worn and social-distancing enforced. For a country famed for its mass gatherings and social mobilization, this forum may have seemed a slightly odd beast.

Looking around though it was hard not to feel a weight of history: among the crowd, Sheila Sisulu and Ilse Fischer Wilson. Each needs no reference bar their own individual professional accomplishment and activism. But their presence – Sheila, of the Sisulu family, and Ilse, Bram Fischer’s daughter – seemed to gesture poignantly to the sacrifices made in some cases by generations of South Africans so that constitutional democracy, and the rights safeguarded therein, might be won.

It would probably register only as atrocious affront to those who paid the ultimate price that twenty five years on from the adoption of South Africa’s constitution of 1996 we seem to have shuddered ignominiously to a stall. 

Monday’s gathering took place in the shadows of the Constitutional Court. It too might ask: how did this happen?

Twenty years ago, I was a clerk at the court. It hadn’t yet occupied its purpose-built premises on Constitution Hill. Instead it was housed in a work-aday office park on Hoofd Street. That seemed fitting – as if this then new court needed no trappings of grandeur. It’s importance would be signified by the content of its decisions.

Among the cases that came before the court at the time was that of Irene Grootboom and this entailed deliberation as to the meaning to be given the right to access housing. Some have said that the court didn’t go far enough in what it ordered of government but no one there can say that the considerations didn’t weigh inordinately heavily on the judges. The plight of those homeless and without shelter all too obvious but a recognition too that government in a developing state had finite resources and competing pressing demands as to healthcare, education and social security, among others.

The outcome: that there was to be progressive realisation of socio-economic rights. In the intervening years though there has been limited energy and resources expended delineating just what progressive realisation should look like.

Instead on Thursday the Court will be asked to rule on a question the answer to which must be obvious to anyone who genuinely asks: must a former president who fails to observe the lawful authority of lawfully established commission and that of the highest court in the land earn penalty for that failure?

It is about as constitutionally emaciated a dilemma as that posed by the social grants crisis, now having clogged the court for far too long, and which essentially forced the court to rubber stamp the extension of an unlawful, predatory contract because the court was left with no alternative and because it certainly wasn’t going to countenance disruption to payment of grants to beneficiaries – whatever the indifference of the then Minister of Social Development to such a fate.

But here’s another way in which the loss wrought by the years of state capture might be tallied: far from our Constitutional Court being asked during these years to realise and give content to the constitution’s highest aspirations for the people of South Africa, it has again and again been required only to shore up the bare minimum of what the constitution demands. 

The price of that lost opportunity cost though is incalculable.

Nicole Fritz is the CEO of Freedom Under Law.

This opinion piece was first published in Business day on 24 March 2021, available here.

Civil Society Working Group Submits Joint Agenda for Action to Zondo Commission

19 February 2020

The Civil Society Working Group (CSWG) on State Capture jointly submitted an Agenda for Action – a summary of civil society’s recommendations – to the Zondo Commission.

The CSWG is comprised of more than twenty civil society organisations, of which Freedom Under Law is one.

Click below to download the full submission: