Public urged to comment on NPA Amendment Bill

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Parliament has asked the public to use the next two weeks to comment on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Amendment Bill. It is one of the measures to deal with and prevent State Capture.

However, members of Parliament (MPs) have raised concerns that the Bill does not deal sufficiently with the independence of the NPA. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development briefed MPs on its progress in implementing the recommendations of the Zondo Commission.

The NPA Amendment Bill is the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s answer to the President’s response on the State Capture Report. The President’s response had three main points: to establish a permanent Investigating Directorate, to ensure transparency in the appointment of the head of prosecutions, and to strengthen the capacity of the NPA.

The current NPA Amendment Bill before Parliament, only deals with one of the three aspects. Deputy Director General at the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Kalay Pillay explains:

“Investigating Directorate to be established as a permanent entity, here the NPA Amendment Bill has been introduced and is currently undergoing deliberation in Parliament.”

The Democtratic Alliance’s (DA) Werner Horn raised concern that while the NPA Amendment Bill deals with the establishment of a permanent Investigating Directorate, it does not deal adequately with the independence of the NPA.

“From what is in the presentation as well as what was now shared with us during the presentation, we must in my view be worried that there’s a disconnect between the remarks of the Zondo Commission about the importance to deal with and to establish and independent NPA versus the envisaged work as set out by the department and this government as set out in the presentation.”

Sufficient time

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP, Steve Swart, said there would have been sufficient time to deal with the Bill.

“And we know that the recommendations came out a long time ago, the Zondo Commission and we are dealing with a NPA Bill now. So it is a pity that, we were not able to look at this aspect of independence of the NPA, understanding it would’ve required constitutional amendment as the dept. pointed out but the pity now is that this will stand over to post elections.”

The department conceded that there is no time to add proposals that deal with the independence of the NPA. Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development, John Jeffery says the issues are quite complicated.

“Those are all issues that are quite complicated, it needs to be reflected on deliberated on and will take time, particularly if they involve constitutional amendments. And that is why we want the National Prosecuting Act Amendment Bill passed to ensure that the investigating directorate has greater capacity.”

However, the DA’s Glynnis Breytenbach says an Investigating Directorate that falls under the NPA will not be independent, citing the fate of the former Investigating Directorate, the Directorate for Special Operations, as well as that of the Scorpions.

“We’ve seen what happens when you have an Investigating Directorate that works housed within the National Prosecuting Authority as soon as politicians become uncomfortable with such a unit they just disband it as they did with the Directorate for Special Operations (DSO) – scorpions, despite great opposition to the disbanding it was disbanded because it went after politicians and they didn’t like being bitten.

The Department reiterated that it is racing against time if it wants to ensure any changes before the sixth Parliament’s term comes to an end, ahead of next year’s general elections. The closing date for submissions on the National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill is the 6th of October.

Zondo Commission findings: Karam Singh