News / Opinion / Columns

Martin Williams
3 minute read
22 Aug 2018
8:30 am

Charge the Zuptas now, don’t waste time with commissions

Martin Williams

Government-appointed commissions seldom produce satisfactory outcomes. Instead, justice is neutralised by the slow poison of media saturation.

Former president Jacob Zuma was surrounded by some of his backers, such as Carl Niehaus, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Supra Mahumapelo and Des van Rooyen. Zuma appeared in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban on charges of corruption, 8 June 2018. Pictures: Media24/Pool

Don’t expect fireworks from Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. Commission findings don’t necessarily lead to criminal prosecution. They have no legal standing.

Any recommendation by Zondo will remain a recommendation and will not be binding on the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) or the Hawks. So in this instance Zondo has less authority than the office of the public protector. Remember the Zondo commission was established because of a binding recommendation by former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her 2016 report, State of Capture.

As Professor Pierre de Vos has pointed out, no police officer has been successfully prosecuted for the 2012 Marikana massacre. This despite findings against the police in Judge Ian Farlam’s commission report. More than R300 million has been spent on inquiries, including Marikana (44 deaths), Life Esidimeni (144 deaths) and Judge Willie Seriti’s arms deal whitewash.

Such commissions are tricks which the ANC learned from former oppressors. Commissions deceive the people. Appointing a judge to lead a commission helps create the impression justice will be done. Consider the 1992 Judge Harms commission, appointed by former president FW de Klerk to investigate the existence of a police hit squad. As De Vos notes, “Harms concluded no hit squad operated in SA, a conclusion that turned out to be laughably false”.

Government-appointed commissions seldom produce satisfactory outcomes. Instead, justice is neutralised by the slow poison of media saturation. Perhaps you are already tired of it. Zondo has two years to complete his report. By 2020, Ramaphosa could be ousted in the 2019 election, or his party could recall him. Long before that, many of us will succumb to state-Gupture fatigue.

The terms of reference for Zondo were decided on by former president Jacob Zuma, who had tried to avoid implementing Madonsela’s recommendations. The terms can be amended but they were set by a man who did not want the inquiry.

Is Zuma still influencing the process? Perceptions of this pressure may be exaggerated in reports of a “fightback” by Zuma loyalists. Yet we need to consider why Zondo was this week still complaining about a lack of cooperation from government officials. Why are they not toeing the line? If they are afraid, what do they fear? And why are security clearances for Zondo inquiry staff being delayed?

Are Zuptas stalling the process? If the inquiry is being stymied by Zuptas, the security establishment remains at least partially captured. Will Zuptas succeed in having the terms of reference broadened to include the apartheid years, thus further delaying any completion date? Kicking for touch.

Zuptas should already be in jail. The Hawks and the NPA are running out of excuses for not putting these crooks behind bars. Outa and Corruption Watch, among others, are queueing to offer detailed, admissible, damning evidence.

The country cannot wait for a Zondo damp squib. Zuma and his cronies must be charged as soon as possible. Shorn of their sheepish ex-boss, the NPA must do their job, now.

Martin Williams, DA councillor.

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