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Lamola calls on legal fraternity to join fight against corruption

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: Phando Jikelo-African News Agency(ANA)

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. Picture: Phando Jikelo-African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 24, 2022

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Justice Minister Ronald Lamola has encouraged those in the legal fraternity to consider assisting the State to prosecute corruption cases at a reduced rate or for free “as a means of patriotic duty”.

Lamola was delivering the opening address at the Law Society of South Africa’s Conference in Kempton Park, Johannesburg taking place this week.

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The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) is holding its annual general meeting and Conference under the theme “The Rule of Law and the Role of Legal Practitioners in Combating Corruption”.

Lamola said he was pleased that the gathering was considering the question of the role of lawyers in combating corruption.

He said it was an important question, especially considering where South Africa was in its Constitutional democracy.

“We are at a point wherein our democracy is being suffocated by corruption.

“One thing is becoming increasingly clear in post-apartheid South Africa – corruption has disrupted the government’s ability to implement the structural reforms, which are required to move South Africa away from the two nations, based on race which was orchestrated by the apartheid regime.”

Lamola said the NPA was preparing to prosecute the various crimes identified by the Zondo Commission, some of which were voluminous.

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“We have invoked Section 38 of National Prosecuting Authority Act. Despite this being in place and being invoked, what stops members of the legal fraternity from saying to us, as a means of patriotic duty: ’I am willing to assist the state to prosecute corruption at a reduced rate or even for free.’”

He also spoke about South Africans viewing corruption as a predominantly government phenomenon.

“We seem to be tolerant of those who brag about paying a bribe to an officer who caught them speeding. We seem to be tolerant of accounting firms, architects and professionals who create sophisticated schemes to extract money from Transnet which is meant to augment our railway system, but with the help of professionals, this money finds itself in pockets of politically connected individuals.”

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Lamola raised concern over the low number of regulatory reports received from legal practitioners. These are transactions exceeding R25 000.

He said that during the past five years, from April 2016 to March 2021, legal practitioners filed 11 966 cash threshold reports, at an average of 2 393 a year.

During the same period, the sector filed 1 160 suspicious and unusual transaction reports, at an average of 232 a year.

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“The question that arises is how is it possible that there were 16 059 legal practitioners, including branches, registered with the FIC as of March 2021 but yet there are such low numbers of reporting?

“Perhaps in light of the above, another question that arises is how we, as lawyers, implement section 7 of the Prevention of Organisation Crime Act, which criminalises the failure to report suspicion regarding proceeds of unlawful activities.

“So, as lawyers, we know very well what our role should be. The question is what stops us from playing it?”

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Political Bureau

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