• Corruption is ‘biggest threat’ to constitutional democracy
  • Dramat, McBride, Pillay saw convergence in investigations

Former senior officials in South Africa’s tax authority and the police’s investigating and oversight units said that attacks on people in the nation’s government institutions are “aimed at undermining the fight against corruption.”

Suspended Executive Director of the Independent Police Investigation Directorate Robert McBride, South African Revenue Services ex-Deputy Commissioner Ivan Pillay and Anwa Dramat, the former head of the police’s special investigative unit known as the Hawks, made the comments in a joint statement issued on Tuesday. Pillay was suspended last year and resigned in May. All charges and probes against him were withdrawn. Dramat was also suspended and eventually resigned, saying he was targeted for conducting probes of “very influential people.” McBride is fighting his suspension in the country’s Constitutional Court.

“A key part of all of our mandates was to investigate cases of corruption,” they said. “We have discovered a convergence in the cases that we were working on. A common thread is that cases under investigation involved individuals or entities with questionable relationships to those in public office. Most of these cases involved state tenders of some kind that were awarded due to patronage with influential individuals in public office.”

On March 31, South Africa’s top court found President Jacob Zuma violated the Constitution when he defied a directive by the nation’s graft ombudsman to repay state funds spent on his private home. A month later, the High Court ruled that prosecutors erred when they dropped a corruption case against Zuma seven years ago, opening the way for 783 charges against him to be reinstated.

Corruption ‘Cancer’

In December, Zuma named a little-known lawmaker as finance minister, causing the rand and the nation’s bonds to plunge before reappointing Pravin Gordhan to a post he held from 2009 to 2014. Gordhan, 67, is at risk of being charged with espionage, and fired, after the Hawks police unit completed its probe of his alleged involvement in a special investigations agency within the revenue service, the Sunday Times newspaper reported May 15. The rumors are false and “malicious,” Gordhan said Tuesday.

Senior officials from the governing African National Congress in March stepped forward with allegations that the Guptas, a wealthy Indian family whose members are friends of Zuma’s, offered them cabinet posts in exchange for business concessions. That spurred a probe by the party and another by the Public Protector, the graft ombudsman. The Guptas deny any wrongdoing. Zuma has said only he has the authority to appoint ministers.

“Corruption is the biggest threat to our constitutional democracy,” McBride, Dramat and Pillay said. “This cancer has turned former comrades against each other. We should be concerned about the escalating levels of corruption and the damage it has inflicted on our country, service delivery, our economy and especially the poor.”

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