I’ve written before that one of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA’s) strategic priorities is to support the recovery of the criminal justice system. I’m pleased that we took a step forward in that effort last week by signing a memorandum of understanding with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to allow us to support the NPA with the technical skills it needs to mount effective prosecutions.
I applaud the NPA’s willingness to take bold and innovative measures to ensure it has the resources it needs to deliver convictions.
The NPA is ramping up its efforts to respond to the Zondo Commission and will need specialised skills to support complex corruption cases, such as forensic accountants and data analysts. While the NPA has benefited from increases in funding to support its efforts, it will take time to recruit and train for the specialist skills it needs.
Meanwhile, the private sector has good capacity in complex investigations and the legal minds to draw together evidence to support successful prosecutions. These are scarce skills which the private sector can mobilise quickly, while the NPA continues to build its own capacity for the long term.
The NPA must be able to deal with cases involving complex international crime, often with complex digital evidence requiring sophisticated tools to analyse and ultimately present to court.
Of course, it is critical that the NPA functions independently and free of undue influence. The MOU protects that by ensuring any requests for assistance come from the NPA. BLSA has undertaken to identify expertise to support the NPA in response to specific requests, but any service providers will report to the NPA and be subject to all of the appropriate legal requirements in doing so.
At the same time we are also conscious of the need to transfer skills to NPA staff. The MOU allows us to mobilise the best people in the private sector to work for the NPA to investigate and build cases for successful prosecutions.
The MOU has taken time to finalise precisely because of the importance of ensuring it meets the NPA’s high standards of independence and integrity.
BLSA’s motive is clear: we support the rule of law. We have long done so through our Business Against Crime subsidiary and will now expand these efforts to support the NPA. The rule of law is essential for economies to work.
State capture systematically undermined the institutions of our criminal justice system and all stakeholders today need to be part of the effort of repairing it. Business is committed to doing its part – ultimately we want a criminal justice system that is capable and effective in bringing to justice those who violate our laws.
That builds trust, enabling the economy. We need contracts to be enforced, crime to be punished and property protected.
We are also conscious of the challenges facing our engagement with the international financial system and the risk of being greylisted by the Financial Action Task Force, in part because of our inability to systematically prosecute those involved in commercial crime and money laundering.
We hope our support for the NPA will contribute to the national effort to fix our capacity and avoid a damaging downgrade of South Africa’s status as being compliant with international anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules.
I am excited that we have reached this juncture and look forward to working with the NPA as well as all our members to swiftly support the authority in response to its requests. I believe this will provide an important set of resources to ultimately ensure justice is done, restoring the confidence of businesses and consumers that South Africa is a safe and reliable place to live and work.
* Mavuso is CEO of BLSA.