S.Africa corruption crusader takes aim at police

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South Africa’s most prominent corruption buster accused the police and bureaucrats of improper behaviour in US$265 million lease deals that have embarrassed President Jacob Zuma’s government.

But Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has few tools to follow up on her investigation due to the limited scope of her office, which likely means that government figures named in her report will escape punishment.

Zuma’s administration has been charged with endemic corruption most prominently by one of its closest allies, the labour federation COSATU, which is a long-time backer of the ruling African National Congress and a governing partner, Reuters reports.

Investors worried about deals favouring the politically connected in vital sectors such as mining and a South African public angered by wasteful spending have pinned hopes on Madonsela for effecting change.

But she said in a news conference there is little she can do to follow up on her suspicions of a sweetheart property deal in the lease agreement by police for two buildings other than make recommendations to law enforcement officials.
“There was no legitimate justification for a deviation from the prescribed tender process,” she told a news conference.

She accused the police and public works ministry of “maladministration” in paying well-above market prices for the lease agreements that benefited a property manager with close ties to senior ANC officials.

There have been almost no major prosecutions for corruption under Zuma even though the president and ANC officials have made it a top priority to root out criminality eating away at the government of Africa’s largest economy.

The soft-spoken former human rights lawyer Madonsela has been on the front pages of major newspapers for taking on powerful figures in government and accusing them of misspending state money and abusing their office.

The media has also accused the police of trying to intimidate her.

National police commissioner Bheki Cele has said Madonsela’s report into the property deals did not accuse him of any illegal acts and he felt vindicated.

He said he was concerned by the findings and pledged to investigate, while also urging the public protector to hear the police’s side of the story.

Madonsela, who helped draw up South Africa’s democratic constitution, was appointed by Zuma two years but now appears to have come under attack for doing her job by the book.

People in her sights have included Zuma for his failure to disclose his private business interests to parliament and ministers who have gone on personal spending sprees at taxpayers’ expense.