National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa
South African society post-1994 has been marked by profound political changes and the establishment of progressive legislation, policies and programmes that have served to lay the basis for a new society. Key milestones along the way have been the adoption of the Constitution in 1996 that outlined the formation of the NPA and Section 179 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, which created a single NPA.
Also vital within the criminal justice system
(CJS) was the formation of the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), established in 1998.
The Office of the NDPP consists of deputy NDPPs, and special DPPs who head the specialised units – the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (Soca), the Special Commercial Crimes Unit (SCCU), Priority Crimes Litigation Unit (PCLU) and Office for Witness Protection (OWP).
These units were established through presidential proclamations relevant to their specific focus areas such as sexual offences, special commercial crimes and priority crimes litigation. The Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) was also created to ensure that the powers in the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 1998 (Act 121 of 1998), to seize criminal assets are used effectively to remove the profits of crime.
Legislation governing the prosecuting authority is the NPA Act, 1998 (Act 32 of 1998) [PDF]. The Constitution, read with this Act, provides the prosecuting authority with the power to institute criminal proceedings on behalf of the State and to carry out any necessary functions incidental to instituting criminal proceedings.
The NPA Amendment Act, 2008 (Act 56 of 2008) [PDF], and the South African Police Service (SAPS) Amendment Act, 2008 (Act 57 of 2008) [PDF], provided for the dissolution of the Directorate: Special Operations (DSO). The DSO and SAPS Organised Crime Unit became a single agency known as the Directorate: Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), within the SAPS. The Acts are expected to strengthen the investigative capacity of the police in relation to organised and serious crime.
While the core work of the NPA will remain prosecutions and being "the people's lawyer", the NPA Strategy seeks to ensure that the organisation becomes more proactive so as to:
- contribute to economic growth
- contribute to freedom from crime
- contribute to social development
- promote a culture of civic morality
- reduce crime
- ensure public confidence in the CJS.
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National Prosecutions Service (NPS)
A significant majority of the NPA's prosecutors are housed in the NPS, the organisation's biggest unit. The NPS is headed by the Deputy Directors of Public Prosecutions (DPPs). They head the respective regional jurisdictions, which are attached to the high courts of the country.
All the public prosecutors and state advocates manning the district, regional and high courts report to the DPPs in their respective areas of jurisdiction.
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Office for Witness Protection
The OWP was created in 2001, in terms of the Witness Protection Act, 1998 (Act 112 of 1998) [PDF].
The OWP provides a support service to the CJS by protecting threatened or intimidated witnesses and related persons by placing them under protection, ensuring that they testify in criminal and other defined proceedings. The OWP has maintained a proud record of no witnesses or family members in the programme being harmed or threatened since the office was established.
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Asset Forfeiture Unit
The AFU was created in 1999 in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, 1998 (Act 121 of 1998) [PDF]. The unit focuses on restraining and forfeiting the proceeds of crime or the property used to commit crime. The AFU has two major strategic objectives, namely to:
- develop the law by taking test cases to court and creating the legal precedents necessary to allow for the effective use of the law
- build capacity to ensure that asset forfeiture is used as widely as possible to have a real effect in the fight against crime.
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Specialised Commercial Crime Unit
The SCCU was established in 1999 as a pilot project to combat the deteriorating situation pertaining to commercial crime. The SCCU aims to reduce commercial crime by the effective investigation and prosecution of complex commercial crime.
The SCCU's mandate is to effectively prosecute complex commercial crime cases emanating from the commercial branches of the SAPS. The client base of the SCCU comprises a broad spectrum of complainants in commercial cases, ranging from private individuals and corporate bodies to state departments.
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Priority Crimes Litigation Unit
The PCLU is a specialist unit mandated to tackle cases that threaten national security. The PCLU was created by Presidential proclamation and is allocated categories of cases either by the President or by the NDPP. The primary function of the PCLU is to manage and direct investigations and prosecutions in respect of the following areas:
- the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical and biological)
- the regulation of conventional military arms
- the regulation of mercenary and related activities
- the International Court created by the Statue of Rome
- national and international terrorism
- prosecutions of persons who were refused or failed to apply for amnesty in terms of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) processes.
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Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit
Soca acts against the victimisation of vulnerable groups, mainly women and children.
The unit develops strategy and policy, and oversees the management of cases relating to sexual offences, domestic violence, human trafficking, maintenance offences and children in conflict with the law. Soca aims to:
- improve the conviction rate in gender-based crimes and crimes against children
- protect vulnerable groups from abuse and violence
- ensure access to maintenance support
- reduce secondary victimisation.
One of the unit's key achievements in ensuring government's commitment to the fight against sexual offences and gender-based violence is the establishment of Thuthuzela care centres (TCCs).
The TCC concept is recognised by the UN General Assembly as a "world best-practice model" in the field of gender-violence management and response. The TCCs are one-stop facilities located in public hospitals in communities where the incidence of rape is particularly high.
The TCCs aim to provide survivors with a broad range of essential services – from emergency medical-care counselling to court preparation – in a holistic, integrated and victim-friendly manner.
By December 2011, there were 27 fully operational TCCs in the country.
The Thuthuzela Project is supported by the roll-out of victim support rooms (VSRs) in an effort to show empathy to victims of violent crime, especially in cases of sexual offences, child abuse and domestic violence. In 2011, the department increased the number of VSRs from 806 to 900 across the country. These rooms are used for interviews, taking statements and other consultations.
Source: South Africa Yearbook 2011/12
Editor: D Burger. Government Communication and Information System
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