Zondo commission's amended regulation will speed up prosecutions – Hermione Cronje


The amended regulation of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture is a huge boost for morale, says advocate Hermione Cronje, the head of the National Prosecuting Authority's Investigating Directorate.

In a gazette published on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa amended a regulation of the state capture commission, which will allow law enforcement agencies to access information.

It also gives the commission's staff an opportunity to take up employment or be appointed on a consultancy basis by law enforcement agencies.

The regulation states that: "Notwithstanding the provisions of this regulation, any employee of the commission shall not, after the commission has concluded its work – (a) be precluded from being employed or appointed on a consultancy basis by any state law enforcement agency; and (b) after being so employed or appointed be precluded from using or disclosing information, records or documents obtained by him or her during the course of his or her employment by the commission."

Powers

It further notes the regulation does not derogate from the statutory powers and duties of any law enforcement agency and the commission.

Speaking to News24 on Wednesday morning, advocate Cronje said, with the new amended regulation, they can now directly employ staff from the state capture inquiry – in order speed up prosecutions.

She also said she is anticipating the amendment to give her team access to more people, skills capabilities and a free extent of information.

"By and large, we don't want information gathered by the Zondo commission, we have powers to gather that information ourselves. What we wanted from the Zondo commission is to share information and ideas about lines of enquiry that will be unproductive, and we shouldn't pursue."

"So, it's really a sharing of understanding of the problem, us sharing our strategy and saying, 'do you think we are on the right track? Do you think we are wasting our time? Are there other areas we should pursue?'"

Cronje said the regulation now states that law enforcement and the commission may share information, records and documents – but this did not mean information was not shared before.

Requests

She said she had previously requested information from the inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

She said she made "pointed and surgical requests", adding that she does not go on a "fishing expedition".

"I don't say give me what you have on so and so; I say 'I am investigating this transaction, I have a reasonable suspicion that there was an email communication between so and so, and so are you able to identify for me whether on a particular computer you have found communication like this'."

Cronje also said it was important for people to understand that, if they take self-incriminating evidence to the commission, it does not suddenly become available to her team to use in a prosecution.

She said the evidence remains information that is confidential and privileged, and the law was clear on this.

"We can use the information about other people that they implicate, but obviously we still need to secure their consent and cooperation because, if they are not willing to give evidence in a criminal trial, then we are still going to have problems.

"We can compel them to produce evidence in court, but then, if they are not willing, we will deal with hostile witnesses and whatever the challenge is that comes with doing so."

Cronje also told News24 that her team is committed and had pushed hard for the amendment.

She said she had recently read a report, which said the amendment took long and that it should have happened ages ago.

But she did not agree with this.

She said the priority was getting the story told and "getting our own understanding, and so people did need to feel confident that they can talk to the Zondo commission, and have a sense of protection from law enforcement basically".

"But where we are now, I am confident that we have done enough independent investigation, that the kind of support we are going to get from Zondo is not the documents, it's not the hard evidence, it is the understanding, pursuing lines, skilled people who know the terrain."

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