NPA’s delays in the On Point Engineering corruption case are an obstruction to justice

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has yet again demonstrated its unwillingness to take corruption cases seriously, and its propensity to kick the can in the hope that AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit’s interest in a matter will wane.

Eight years after the On Point Engineering case was withdrawn, neither EFF leader Julius Malema nor any of his four co-accused have been brought back to court to answer to the allegations of fraud and money laundering, linked to a Limpopo Department of Roads and Transport tender worth R52-million.

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit wants to know why and has previously written to National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi, to find out. The latest response from the highest levels of leadership in the NPA is not only dismissive but generates more questions than it provides answers. This conduct flies in the face of recent commitments to the fight against corruption by the Minister of Justice, Ronald Lamola, in Parliament.

In November 2019, after the Unit filed a mandamus application against the NPA, it was announced that a case would proceed against four of the On Point Engineering accused – but not Malema. Head of the NPA’s National Prosecution Service, Adv. Rodney de Kock told the Unit in a letter that there was not enough evidence against Malema to sustain case against him – a claim the unit strongly rejects.

In March this year, Unit head, Adv. Gerrie Nel wrote to Batohi:

“We have to rechallenge the NPA to deliver on their promises. We have publicly and in correspondence described their commitment to prioritise corruption involving politically connected individuals as nothing more than lip service. For example, in the abovementioned letter dated 01 October 2021, Advocate De Kock indicated that: “…the prosecution of On Point Engineering (Pty) Ltd and its Directors will proceed separately to avoid any further delays…”

This office has waited patiently… and is at a loss to understand why the accused have not appeared in court. The only inference is that the relationship between the suspects and Mr Malema played a role in the NPA’s failure to act and that the stated intention to prosecute was a mere delaying tactic in the hope that our interest will wane.

We reiterate our stance that the disinclination to take prosecutorial action against Mr Malema is irrational and will prejudice any possible prosecution against him in future.”

It took the NPA five months to respond. De Kock says in a letter dated 18 August 2022 that the “matter is still receiving the necessary attention by the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit, Pretoria, with a view to prosecute it in the Limpopo Division of the High Court.”

This response lacks rationality and is devoid of any meaningful explanation for the undue delay in proceeding with the case.

It beggars’ belief that a case that was in fact ready for trial in 2015, would require any further attention, let alone an additional three years of attention after it was decided to re-enroll the matter. It was this Unit’s intervention that caused the NPA to re-enroll the matter, but subsequent failures illustrates that the NPA has no appetite to prosecute politically connected individuals with corruption.

The Unit’s interest in this matter will not wane, and the Unit will continue to put pressure on the NPA to act. The Unit only asks that the NPA displays the same level of commitment towards prosecuting corruption cases.

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