Markets can’t function without confidence in the security of property and contract: Mavuso

BLSA CEO explains why she believes prosecution of those involved in state capture is vital.
Deputy Chief Justice and head the Commission Of Inquiry Into State Capture Raymond Zondo settles in at the start of the first day of the probe taking place in Johannesburg, 20 August 2018. Image: Refilwe Modise

The rule of law is strongly in the interest of business. Without the certainty of a clear legal framework, backed up by rigorous investigation and prosecution, business is far harder to do. Markets can’t function without confidence in the security of property and contract. Corruption, which systematically undermines that confidence, comes at a high price to business and the economy.

This is why I think it is a good idea for business to support our prosecution authorities in the effort to bring to book those implicated in various state capture investigations, particularly the Zondo commission. It is clear that the National Prosecuting Authority, and the senior levels of our investigation services, have struggled to find the resources necessary to ensure successful prosecutions. This is itself a legacy of state capture – key institutions of our criminal justice system were undermined as part of a deliberate strategy to ensure impunity. Those deep scars are still with us, and those of us in business are eager to help the healing process and see it through.

There are two main ways that business can assist – skills and financial resources. We have in our ranks highly capable forensic investigators, researchers, advocates, attorneys and others who can support investigation and prosecution. There are also potential ways that business can support by deploying financial resources to support prosecutions.

I was encouraged by comments in parliament last week by NPA head Shamila Batohi that she is considering engaging with the private sector to access resources to support the NPA’s work. I think there is a clear sentiment on the side of business to provide the support necessary for prosecutions.

Of course, it is critical that any such support is provided on the appropriate terms. Our criminal justice system and judiciary is a key part of our government and its independence is sacrosanct. The constitutionally appropriate institutions must always be responsible for decisions made on prosecutions (with the narrow exception of private prosecutions, which may also have a role to play).

Any support the private sector provides can only be as an agent, never a principal. We are of course well aware that corruption was perpetrated not only by those in the public sector but in the private sector too, and justice must be done without fear or favour.

The appropriate mechanisms will need to be developed to ensure the right terms to govern any such support. Batohi has proposed a trust as one such mechanism. I think the idea has merit, with governance invested in a suitable set of trustees such as retired judges.

There are I believe ways that the different spheres of our society can come together to ensure we deliver justice to all those implicated in state capture, and corruption more broadly. BLSA is certainly willing to work with the NPA and other parts of the criminal justice system to design appropriate methods. BLSA has a proud of history of supporting the fight against crime broadly through Business Against Crime, a division within BLSA. This has played a complementary function to the police and other institutions to ensure the private sector’s information and other resources can appropriately support the fight against crime.

I look forward to working with our social partners to explore ways we can come together to ensure that justice is done and our society can rebuild trust that the rule of law reigns supreme.

Busi Mavuso is CEO Business Leadership South Africa.


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