The People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime in South Africa will open its first hearings this Saturday, 3 February, at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.
People’s Tribunals have been led by citizens and civil society for over four decades to address human rights abuses and war crimes in many contexts, including Palestine and Indonesia.
Importantly, the South African People’s Tribunal on Economic Crime will be the first tribunal of its kind to focus primarily on economic crimes and corruption.
This intervention comes at a time when there is significant evidence in the public domain related to these crimes. Yet there has been insufficient action by the state to fully investigate allegations of corruption and state capture, and to hold powerful individuals, international corporations and politicians accountable for their conduct.
The People’s Tribunal is one way that citizens can take action by collecting, discussing and publicising evidence that can be used to hold those responsible to account.
From 3-7 February, the People’s Tribunal will examine the continuities between apartheid-era economic crime; the post-apartheid Arms Deal and contemporary state capture.
The first hearings will focus on the arms trade over the past 40 years. These economic crimes contributed to the loss of thousands of lives during the apartheid era. The 1999 Arms Deal has significantly weakened our democracy with little accountability. Most recently, the state arms company Denel is an important example of state capture. Few people and corporations have ever been held to account.
The Tribunal will join the dots between corruption past and present focussing on detailed evidence, public submissions and testimony by fifteen witnesses and whistle-blowers. In addition over a dozen civil society organisations will provide testimony of the impact of corruption and inequality on the lives of South Africans.
This evidence will be led before a panel of six esteemed adjudicators including Zak Yacoob, Navi Pillay, Dinga Sikwebu, Mandisa Dyantyi, Yasmin Sooka and Allyson Maynard Gibson. Their findings will be recorded in a final report that will be the basis for the next steps in the struggle for accountability.
The Tribunal’s organising committee comprises a range of civil society organisations, including Corruption Watch, the Foundation for Human Rights, Open Secrets, Public Affairs Research Institute and the Right2Know Campaign.