Skip to main content

What is the SIU and its purpose?

On 20 November 1996, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, assented to and signed into law the Special Investigating Units and Special Tribunals Act, Act No. 74 of 1996 (“the SIU Act”).


The primary purpose of the SIU Act was to establish Special Investigating Units (SIU) to investigate:

  • Serious maladministration in connection with the affairs of any state institution.
  • Improper or unlawful conduct by employees of any state institution.
  • Unlawful appropriation or expenditure of public money or property.
  • Unlawful, irregular, or unapproved acquisitive act, transaction, measure, or practice having a bearing on State property.
  • Intentional, or negligent loss of public money or damage to public property.
  • Corruption in connection with the affairs of any State institution, and
  • Unlawful or improper conduct by any person which has caused or may cause serious harm to the interests of the public or any category thereof.

State Institutions include, but are not limited to: any companies owned by the State including Telkom South Africa SOC Limited, Transnet SOC Limited and Eskom Holdings SOC Limited; municipalities and their various departments, and national government departments for example the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, and the South African Police Services, Road Accident Fund, Unemployment Insurance Fund and the National Lotteries Commission and SABC.

However, the SIU is only empowered to investigate matters which the President of the Republic of South Africa has, by proclamation in the Government Gazette, referred to an existing Special Investigating Unit or if the President establishes a Special Investigating Unit in order to investigate a particular matter.

Once the investigation is completed, a final report is submitted to the President with an overview of the investigation and its findings, as well as the various recommendations made and their outcome.

The SIU may also operate within the provincial sphere of government, and it is the Premier of a province who is involved in the engagement of the SIU and the SIU is obligated to then report to that Premier.

Litigation (Civil and Criminal)

Should any investigation by the SIU reveal sufficient evidence, the SIU is empowered to take civil action in the Special Tribunal to correct any wrongdoing it uncovers in its investigations, and to recover, protect or save State assets or State monies that have been or could be misappropriated or misused. This also includes the ability to give effect to any judgments it obtains.

The SIU Act also established a Special Tribunal to adjudicate upon any civil proceedings brought to it by the SIU and it comprises of Judges or other members which may be appointed by the President from the ranks of Judges/Acting Judges, Magistrate’s Advocates or Attorneys.

The powers of the Special Tribunal are similar to those of any other court, which includes the power to issue subpoenas, bank statements, cell phone records, seize evidence and interrogate witnesses, hear interlocutory or interdict applications, and make any order it deems appropriate to give effect to any ruling or decision it has made.

The significant benefit of having a matter adjudicated in the Special Tribunal, rather than in the Magistrate or High Courts, is that matters can be set down for hearing much quicker thus there would be a speedy resolution of the matter.

If any investigation reveals any criminal offenses, the SIU may report the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) or other law enforcement agencies including the South Africa Police Services, and then work closing with them to ensure perpetrators are prosecuted in the appropriate forum.


The SIU does not act in isolation, it is accountable to Parliament’s National Assembly, through the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development, and yearly it tables an Annual Report to Parliament setting out, amongst other things: the proclamations issued to it during that year, the investigations and activities conducted by it in that year, details of the Reports it submitted, any civil litigation, its composition and budget and financial statements. The SIU is also an accounting authority and in terms of the Public Finance Management Act, No. 1 of 1999, it is required to maintain adequate accounting records and is responsible for the content and integrity of the annual financial statements and related financial information and is audited by the Auditor General South Africa.

Reporting corruption to the SIU

The public is requested to blow the whistle against corruption and any allegation may be reported through the SIU’s whistle-blower hotline, which is managed by an independent service provider, walk-ins, telephone calls or emails, directly from state institutions themselves.

Whistle-blowers, who are employees of any State Institution, are protected in terms of Protected Disclosures Act, No. 26 of 2000, which purpose is to provide protection to employees who disclose information related to any offence or malpractice in the workplace.

About the author

Aristidis Perivolaris

Senior Associate
BCom Law (University of Johannesburg, 2003)
LLB (University of South Africa, 2012)

This website uses cookies to remember you and improve your experience. To find out more see our Privacy Policy.