AfriForum's private prosecutions bring new hope for justice

So, recently South African civil rights organisation AfriForum decided to privately prosecute the leader of the EFF, Julius Malema, for corruption.

A case of corruption had been brought against Malema in 2011 but was scrapped from the roll after one of the key figures in the case could not attend the case due to illness. AfriForum had been lambasted for deciding to pursue the case, as many perceive them to have ulterior political motives in deciding to pursue this case.

Even the organisation formerly responsible for charging Malema, the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA), had jumped on AfriForum’s back. This article will argue that, in fact, AfriForum’s private prosecution is doing a public service, despite its possible motives.

Firstly, it must be mentioned that South Africa has an infamous tradition of the private economic sector capitalising on the failure of the public sector. The South African economy is replete with examples of this. Mediclinic, and the providing of private healthcare, stepped into the void left by the failing public healthcare service. A similar phenomenon can be witnessed in the education sector, with Curro private schools going from strength to strength, to such an extent that they are now expanding into the tertiary education sector. Private security companies had also been one of the, if not the, fastest expanding industries within the economy, following the failure of the police to keep the public safe.

With this in mind, it is clear that the NPA under Shaun Abrahams is another example of an efficient and, daresay, captured state institution. Abrahams had failed to charge former president Jacob Zuma for 783 charges of corruption. The Constitutional Court had found that striking this specific case off the roll had been an irrational choice. The Court had further found that Abrahams was incapable of heading this important institution. In Malema’s specific case, the NPA had also acted in an inefficient manner. Following reports by the Hawks, there appeared to be enough evidence to continue with a prosecution of Malema. However, striking the whole case off the roll due to a temporary sickness is unheard of, and smells suspiciously like the NPA trying to protect certain individuals from prosecution, as it had done with Zuma.

However, now AfriForum’s private prosecuting agency is set to rectify this miscarriage of justice, on their own costs, by prosecuting Malema. Any complaints from the NPA seem to be null and void. The NPA had repeatedly excused its inaction through claiming that they have a shortage of manpower, yet as soon as another party steps in to alleviate them of some of their work, they are up in arms. Similarly, the NPA cried foul because they claim that Afriforum is rushing a decision they would have made by August. The NPA had been sitting on this case since 2011. Perhaps a bit of rushing is what is needed.

In conclusion, the NPA is another state institution whose inefficiency is being placed under the spotlight through the actions of third parties. AfriForum’s private investigation, and the threat of more to follow, can only serve to alleviate an overburdened NPA, or force them to act more hastily on cases under review.

Finally, AfriForum’s prosecution could see justice done where it needs to be done. There is a legitimate possibility that a crime had been committed that had gone unpunished. In this South African ‘New Dawn’ shouldn’t we focus on stamping out corruption, regardless of the party that does the prosecution?

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