Special tribunal to claw back state's 'stolen' billions to start next week

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. (Sarel van der Walt, Netwerk24)
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. (Sarel van der Walt, Netwerk24)

"The era of impunity is behind us," Justice Minister Ronald Lamola warned as he announced that the special tribunal to recover billions looted from the state will commence its work on October 1. 

On Thursday, Lamola gazetted the regulations for the Special Investigation Unit’s Special Tribunal. These regulations came into effect upon their publication in the Government Gazette. 

The tribunal was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in February, after an announcement to that effect in his State of the Nation Address. 

The Special Tribunal will be fully operational from next Tuesday and the value of cases ready for adjudication and recovery stands at R14.7bn, according to a statement from the Ministry of Justice. 

Corruption, fraud and illicit money flows

"Our fight against corruption, fraud and illicit money flows has been given real impetus. This Tribunal is a swift mechanism to claw back every cent that was stolen from the fiscus. The era of impunity is behind us, the establishment of the Tribunal gives effect to the President's SONA undertaking to have a special tribunal operating within three months," stated Lamola.

Last month, Lamola stated that the tribunal was delayed as they worked on the regulations to ensure it is "watertight and in order to avoid legal technicalities and loopholes that exposed previous Special Tribunals to litigation".

"Our previous experience has shown that persons who have stolen and syphoned public funds through corruption and maladministration would not hesitate against the tribunal in order to frustrate its processes and efforts to recover their ill-gotten gains," Lamola said in response to a parliamentary question. 

Judge Gidfonia Mlindelwa Makhanya will chair the tribunal for three years. He was discharged from active service and will now dedicate his time to the Special Tribunal assisted by seven judges. They are judges Icantharuby Pillay, Johannes Eksteen, Selewe Peter Mothle, Lebogang Modiba, Thina Siwendu, David van Zyl and Sirajudien Desai.

According to the statement from the Ministry of Justice, the tribunal has a statutory mandate to recover public funds syphoned from the fiscus through corruption, fraud and illicit money flows. Special tribunals differ from ordinary civil proceedings which are adversarial in nature. The special tribunal adopts a more flexible and expeditious approach to legal actions, its proceedings are inquisitorial in nature and characterised by extensive pre-trial investigations. Furthermore, the tribunal president or a member of the tribunal is empowered to dictate the pace of proceedings.

The tribunal's seat will be at the Booysens Magistrates Court, Johannesburg, but Makhanya may schedule hearings of the tribunal at any High Court or Magistrates Court in the Republic, the regulations state. 

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