Editorial: Arrests a good start, but will we see convictions?

Bongani Bongo. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS
Bongani Bongo. Picture: Elmond Jiyane / GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa came into office with an oft-repeated promise to root out the corrupt elements in government.

For about 21 months, he continued to preach this message, but there is still little evidence that his words have been followed by actions.

His appointment of Shamila Batohi as the national director of public prosecutions was hailed as a great step, but she has taken time to adjust to the position.

However, the arrest this week of home affairs portfolio chairperson and former state security minister Bongani Bongo could be a sign that the criminal justice cluster is heeding the call from South Africans who are frustrated by the high level of corruption and the impunity that seems to accompany it.

Bongo appeared in court on charges relating to the attempted bribery of a parliamentary official.

He claims that his ANC peers are conspiring against him.

Then, on Thursday, the Hawks pounced on 10 people in relation to tender fraud in the Amathole district in the Eastern Cape.

The Hawks also arrested Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent chief executive officer Ntandazo Vimba.

The Asset Forfeiture Unit has reportedly attached the assets of Regiments Capital and its directors.

The company has been implicated in reports of state capture.

Read: ANC mum on NEC member Bongani Bongo’s arrest 

So the overall sense this week was that, finally, the Hawks – and hopefully the National Prosecuting Authority – are developing some teeth.

But as much as their actions lifted the mood and gave us hope, an arrest is only the first step in the delivery of justice.

We have seen this movie before – the spectacular arrest of suspects in the Estina dairy farm heist (one of the monuments to the corruption of the wasted decade) ended in the charges being dropped.

We sincerely hope that compelling evidence has been gathered regarding the arrests made this week.

Anything less will give ammunition to the likes of Bongo, who has sought to politicise his situation.

Failure to secure convictions will come across as a PR exercise gone wrong and will instead embolden those who continue to steal from the state with impunity.

So, while we congratulate the law enforcement officials for these baby steps, we need to remind them that their work has only just begun.

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July 2020

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