AS South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa steps up efforts to crackdown on corruption, the justice minister says the government will probe allegations that state attorneys defrauded government of billions of dollars by deliberately losing cases.
Ramaphosa, who replaced former president Jacob Zuma in February, has made the fight against corruption a key plank of his administration as he seeks to restore investor confidence after the scandal-plagued Zuma era.
Attorneys accused of colluding
The Special Investigating Unit (SIU), a state entity which probes malpractice in government, will look into hundreds of cases where state attorneys are accused of colluding with private lawyers to agree the settlement of fictitious claims.
‘The investigation will help the Department of Justice to lay to rest concerns that have been raised,’ Justice Minister Michael Masutha told reporters on Tuesday.
‘Where appropriate … disciplinary action as well as criminal investigations will be initiated against alleged perpetrators to ensure that firm action is taken to uproot corrupt activities.’
In the health ministry, one of the departments worst affected by the alleged fraud, claims totalling 56bn rand ($4bn) will be investigated, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said at the same briefing.
In a related development, South Africa’s Constitutional Court has declared the appointment of chief state prosecutor Shaun Abrahams as ‘constitutionally invalid’, upholding a decision by a lower court that found he had been improperly appointed by former president Jacob Zuma.
Abrahams was appealing an earlier High Court judgment that ruled that the removal of his predecessor, Mxolisi Nxasana, was unlawful and that his own appointment be revoked.
Abrahams was appointed after the removal of his predecessor Mxolisi Nxasana, who accepted a R17 million ($1.1m) settlement package president Zuma.
Non-governmental organisations, Corruption Watch and Freedom Under Law took the matter on the removal of Nxasana to the High Court, which ruled in their favour.