The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has maintained conviction rates with organised crime verdicts increasing by 21% and serious complex tax verdicts increasing by 20%.
This is according to the NPA’s annual report for the 2022-23 financial year that was tabled in Parliament.
NPA head Shamila Batohi said they had made notable progress in building a fit-for-purpose prosecuting authority.
She said that apart from securing funding to fill hundreds of senior positions and recruit young law graduates to ensure the long-term human resource needs of the organisation, the entity had established numerous specialist positions to ensure effective prosecution in fields such as sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), commercial and organised crime, and environmental offences.
Batohi said the NPA had successfully maintained high conviction rates and recorded a marked increase in case finalisation.
“In most of the high-impact cases, an increase in verdict cases was noted. Organised crime verdicts increased by 21% (193 to 234), but the challenge of enrolling cases involving kingpins remains. Conviction rates in serious complex tax verdicts increased by 20% (115 to 138).”
She said the NPA had successfully prosecuted 134 government officials on charges related to corruption.
However, sexual violence, GBV and femicide remained at unacceptably high levels, but the prosecuting authority continued to place special emphasis on prosecuting the matters.
“The high conviction rate of 74.8% for these offences reflects a firm commitment to deliver justice to the victims of sexual violence and GBV.”
Batohi said the NPA had recorded a conviction rate of 86.2% in the prosecution of cable theft matters with 299 convictions from 347 verdict cases.
She, however, said cases involving kingpins remained elusive.
“Unless they are prosecuted, we will not address this major problem,” she warned.
The NPA’s annual report stated that the convictions were obtained in 2 982 of 3 738 murder crime cases finalised with a verdict – the conviction rate increased by 2.4% to 79.8%.
“Both the number of convictions and the number of cases finalised with a verdict increased significantly compared to the previous financial year,” she said.
The report she presented also said the fight against violent crime, particularly murder and rape, was impacted by the challenges around the management of forensic DNA due to shortages of essential chemicals required for DNA analysis. “The SAPS forensic science laboratories are addressing these challenges. The NPA project to build a DNA database, as outlined below in the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs report, has made a significant impact on the backlogs in this area.”
The report said the NPA continued to place special emphasis on prosecuting gender-based violence (GBV), obtaining a conviction rate of 74.8%.
“A conviction rate of 91.9% (475 convictions from 517 verdict cases) was obtained for femicide.”
The report also said during the financial year, 356 intimate-partner femicide convictions were secured from 386 verdict cases, representing a 92.2% conviction rate.
Batohi said that the NPA’s overall performance had improved.
“It was necessary to methodically revitalise the NPA to ‘future proof’ the institution and prevent a recurrence of political ‘capture’ to ensure that the NPA serves only the interests of justice and the people of South Africa.
“This has taken time, perseverance and strategic reform processes under difficult circumstances,” she said.
In the report, the NPA said following additional funding from the National Treasury, the prosecuting authority establishment was increased from 4 967 to 5 353.
“The capacitation of specialised units, especially the Specialised Commercial Crimes Unit and the Independent Directorate, remained a priority as a response to the Zondo Commission.”