Radebe not honest about NPA’s flaws

2013-06-02 10:00

A seasoned politician with many years experience, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe should have done better this week trying to defend the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

Grilled after his budget speech in Parliament, the affable justice minister became annoyed and told journalists the proof of the NPA’s success is South Africa’s overcrowded prisons. Who is Radebe trying to fool?

Conviction rates is only one success factor for the NPA, and a controversial one at that.

The Institute for Security Studies warned last year that using conviction rates alone could easily skew the true picture.

Quoting from internal NPA documentation, the Institute for Security Studies referred to a US study that concluded “any system which pays attention to conviction rates, as opposed to the number of convictions, is liable to abuse”.

The point of the study was to show how prosecutors could manipulate their success by deciding to prosecute fewer cases. If you choose to prosecute only one out of 100 cases, and you are successful with that one, your conviction rate is 100%.

The study further showed that about 1?million new cases are enrolled in the South African criminal justice system each year, but only 325 000 are finalised. What happens to the rest?

Radebe’s explanation had another fatal flaw. On the same day, his Cabinet colleague, S’bu Ndebele, revealed that more than 40 000 of the country’s 152 000 prisoners were awaiting trial. If you removed them from the equation, our prisons wouldn’t be overcrowded.

Radebe’s speech came two days after the NPA suffered a devastating defeat against itself by losing 15-0 in the disciplinary hearing against top prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach.

The NPA’s public image is at an all-time low, stumbling from one public disaster to the next. The list of NPA failures continues to grow: Fidentia, Glenn Agliotti, Andries Tatane, Dave King, Radovan Krejcir, Robert McBride.

Why is Radebe afraid to admit that this once proud institution is a shadow of its former self?

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