Police, Prosecutors Found Wanting by South Africa Graft Scandal

(Bloomberg) -- As allegations stack up in South Africa that senior politicians, state company managers and business executives flaunted the law and looted taxpayer funds during former President Jacob Zuma’s rule, the police and prosecuting service appear to be taking no action.

On Friday, the National Treasury issued a report detailing a slew of management breaches at Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state power utility, and Transnet SOC Ltd., the port and freight rail operator. Drafted by Fundudzi Forensic Services, it calls for criminal probes into some executives and board members.

Equally damning revelations and calls to action have been made in other reports by the graft ombudsman, parliament, the National Treasury and several law and accounting firms over a period spanning several years. Yet so far there hasn’t been a single high-profile arrest or successful prosecution. There’s also scant evidence of the government recouping the stolen money, which Pravin Gordhan, a former finance minster who now looks after the state companies, estimates could exceed 100 billion rand ($7 billion).

The law enforcement agencies have complained to lawmakers about a lack of capacity and expertise, a problem analysts say dates back to Zuma’s almost nine-year tenure when they were systemically hollowed out to protect him and his allies from prosecution. Zuma, who is facing graft charges related to a government weapons deal in the 1990s, denies wrongdoing.

Anti-Graft Battle

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who took office in February after the ruling party forced Zuma to step down, has pledged to clamp down on graft. He’s fired a number of ministers and officials, named a new head of the police’s Hawks investigative unit and is in the process of appointing a new chief prosecutor.

That will be just the start of the process if the government is serious about bringing the looters to book. The law enforcement agencies’ ranks will still need to be cleansed and replenished, and they’ll need to prove their commitment to tackling cases where politically powerful individuals are implicated.

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