- Corruption fighting bodies have welcomed the decision by the state capture commission to lodge a criminal complaint against the former SAA chair for revealing the name of a secret witness.
- The complaint would send a strong message that the commission protects witnesses, they say.
- However, there is concern that the NPA may not be able to deal with the case speedily.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo's announcement that the State Capture Commission will be laying a criminal complaint against former SAA chair Dudu Myeni will send a strong message to detractors that the intimidation of witnesses won't be tolerated, say corruption fighting groups.
Zondo announced on Friday he had instructed the commission's secretary to lodge a criminal complaint against Myeni after she, in early November, blurted out the name of a key witness she believed to be "Mr X" whose identity was meant to be kept secret.
Zondo said that Myeni subsequently provided an affidavit to the commission attempting to explain her conduct. But after examining the affidavit he said the commission felt a criminal complaint should be laid against her.
"I have instructed the legal team to assist the secretary and prepare the documentation necessary so that the secretary of the commission can lay a criminal complaint against Miss Dudu Myeni or the police investigate possible contravention of either Section 5 of the Commission's Act or Regulation 9 of the Regulations of the Commission," he said.
The announcement now puts the ball squarely in the National Prosecuting Authority's court, said civil rights group the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
Corruption Watch, meanwhile, said that in light of the inadequate resources and understaffing hampering the NPA, time will tell if whistle-blowers feel protected again.
Since August 2018, the commission has been investigating allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud at state entities.
Zondo had ordered that Mr X's identity should not be disclosed by any witness as he was convinced that the witness feared for his and his family's safety.
In February this year, News24 reported that Mr X claimed his company received more than R3 million between October 2015 and February 2016 from a corporation owned by Myeni's son Thalente.
When Myeni named the person she believed to be Mr X, the deputy chief justice said her conduct would discourage other witnesses who wanted to give evidence before the commission, seriously undermining its work in the process.
OUTA CEO, Wayne Duvenage, said on Friday that once the complaint has been laid, the NPA would have do its own investigation. But because the prosecuting authority was snowed under with work and had its budget slashed while still trying to build capacity, it was not easy to say how speedily Myeni could be prosecuted.
"But this is still a far better situation to be in as a nation because the rule of law should start flowing," he said.
Duvenage said that, in his view, the Hawks and the NPA should be sitting at the Zondo commission every day looking for evidence so that what is being said there can quickly be converted into criminal charges.
Executive director of Corruption Watch, David Lewis, said it appeared that the former SAA chair revealed Mr X's identity on purpose.
"This doesn't seem to have been an error and it is appropriate that she is charged for it. It's the most appalling deed. I don't know how far it will go, but it would have been a terrible thing to other witnesses if Zondo had not charged her for that," he said.
However, the criminal complaint alone does not send the message that people cannot undermine the commission and get away with it.
This, looked at, together with Zondo's decision to lay a criminal complaint against former President Jacob Zuma for absconding from the commission after the Deputy Chief Justice refused to recuse himself, showed that there was a serious attempt to protect the integrity of the state capture inquiry and its witnesses, said Lewis.