Corruption 'overtaking HIV infection as SA's most serious scourge'

13 December 2017 - 16:43 By Bongani Mthehwa
File photo.
File photo.
Image: bakhtiarzein / 123RF Stock Photo

Acclaimed HIV/Aids researcher Professor Salim Abdool Karim has castigated National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams for failing to act against those implicated in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report.

In a hard-hitting letter to Abrahams on Wednesday‚ Karim also described the NPA boss’s decision to grant President Jacob Zuma an extension to make representations on his 783 charges as “shockingly inappropriate".

“As an AIDS researcher in a country with more than 7-million people living with HIV‚ I watch each day as corruption rapidly overtakes HIV infection as the most serious scourge in South Africa‚” wrote Karim to Abrahams.

Karim’s letter was a follow-up to another letter he wrote to Abrahams on October 2 where he asked him why the NPA had not yet prosecuted anyone implicated in the State of Capture report.

He said in that letter that he had noted that while 333 days had passed since the Public Protector had notified Abrahams about the report‚ there was no clarity on why the NPA had “been so tardy‚ given the critical importance of prosecuting corruption to the future of our country”.

However‚ no response was forthcoming from Abrahams.

Karim‚ the director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in SA‚ lashed out at Abrahams‚ in his most recent letter‚ saying “it was deeply concerning that you and the NPA‚ as a public agency‚ did not even have the decency to acknowledge or respond to my October letter‚ let alone provide me with the requested copy of the NPA task force’s record of decision".

“This aloofness and non-responsiveness shows appalling disdain for public accountability. Under your leadership‚ it seems that the NPA‚ which is a constitutionally-mandated public institution‚ no longer considers itself accountable to the public and citizenry of South Africa‚” he said.

“Much has happened in the last two months since my October letter — your appointment as head of the NPA has been invalidated‚ South Africa’s rating has dropped to junk status and charges on 783 counts of corruption‚ money-laundering and racketeering against the president that were dropped in 2009 have been reinstated.

“It is now 400 days since the Public Protector formally notified you that the State of Capture Report contained information indicating likely criminal conduct and still no charges have been filed or prosecution initiated.”

Karim also described as “outrageous” the NPA task force team finding more than six months ago that there was no clear basis to take criminal action on the State of Capture report.

“To further compound matters‚ your decision to grant the president an extension on top of an already inordinately long opportunity to make representations on his 783 charges was shockingly inappropriate.

“The reasons you provided‚ in your letter to the president’s lawyers‚ on December 10 2017‚ for granting this extension beggars belief‚ given that the president has already conceded in the Supreme Court of Appeal that the initial decision by the NPA to withdraw the charges was fatally flawed.

“For example‚ you justify your decision as being in the ‘interests of all parties in bringing the matter to finality’‚ but your actions achieve the direct opposite and delay bringing this matter to finality.”

Karim said as a scientist he spent a large amount of his time making “observations‚ assessing information and determining the most likely underlying reasons for what is observed”.

“In this particular instance‚ it seems the NPA’s inaction on corruption is either a result of gross incompetence or deliberate efforts to protect corrupt individuals from being held to account. The generous view would be that the delays are due to NPA incompetence.

“It is 400 days and counting — yet no action on corruption by the NPA. Put simply‚ if the NPA is not useless‚ its failure to act can only be a result of its collusion with the corrupt to allow corrupt individuals in position of power to protect themselves from the legal consequences of their corrupt actions.

“Either the reason for NPA inaction‚ incompetence or malevolence is equally damning.” said Karim.