The current centralised structure of the NPA in South Africa poses significant challenges in terms of efficiency and responsiveness to local needs. Action Society proposes a visionary shift in the distribution of prosecutorial power within the country. This shift would entail constitutional amendments that empower provinces to establish their prosecuting authorities, working concurrently with the national NPA to bring about higher efficiency, responsiveness, and accountability within the South African criminal justice system.
Action Society submitted its formal public comment on the National Prosecution Authority Amendment Bill today. Read the submission here.
According to Ian Cameron, Director of Community Safety at Action Society, the NPA Amendment Bill can be a pivotal component of a comprehensive reform effort of the justice system to combat the crime crisis in South Africa. By addressing critical issues such as independence, accountability, and the establishment of a specialised entity like the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption (IDAC), the bill has the potential to contribute significantly to restoring trust in our justice system. While the NPA Amendment Bill represents a crucial step, we recognize that true justice can only be realised when all components of the justice system function effectively and efficiently.
“We believe that it is time to consider constitutional amendments that would allow provinces to establish their prosecuting authorities concurrently with the national NPA. The devolution of prosecutorial power to provinces can significantly enhance the efficiency of the criminal justice system because provinces are better equipped to understand and address the unique challenges and crime dynamics within their jurisdictions. Local prosecutors who are intimately familiar with their communities and the specific nuances of cases can expedite case resolution. This can lead to shorter trial periods, reduced case backlog, and swifter justice for victims. The devolution of power also enhances accountability and transparency within the NPA. Localised prosecuting authorities can be more directly accountable to their respective communities and provincial governments.”
Action Society welcomed the proposed establishment of the Investigating Directorate Against Corruption (IDAC), but underscored the critical importance of an independent NPA, free from any political influence. “Political pressure or influence on the NPA can have dire consequences, compromising the integrity of investigations and prosecutions. It is incumbent upon us to protect the NPA from any form of external manipulation, allowing it to function as a true bastion of justice.”
Even assuming the most optimal functionality of the NPA post-amendment, achieving true justice in South Africa remains elusive due to these prevailing deficiencies in our justice system. “The South African Police Service (SAPS) face numerous challenges in responding effectively to crime, leading to a sense of insecurity among the population. Moreover, our courts are plagued by overwhelming congestion, resulting in prolonged trial processes and delayed justice. The precarious state of our correctional services system further compounds the problem, as it fails to rehabilitate offenders adequately, allowing many to re-offend upon release. In this environment, strict and swift punishment serves as a beacon of hope for South Africa. It not only holds wrongdoers accountable but also acts as a powerful deterrent, discouraging criminal behaviour from the outset.”