News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
23 Jan 2020
2:04 pm

‘It would be a disaster’ if the court doesn’t extend the state capture commission’s lifespan, says Zondo

Makhosandile Zulu

The chairperson says what has been unearthed at the commission so far is only the tip of the iceberg.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency

The chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday told members of the media that it would be a disaster if the court did not accede to the commission’s application to extend its lifespan.

On 20 December 2019, the commission lodged an application in the Pretoria High Court for an order extending its lifespan from the end of February to 31 December 2020.

Zondo said the commission’s investigations had made it clear that more time was needed.

The commission’s chair said a few more years would be required to investigate all the matters contained in the wide-ranging terms of reference of the inquiry, adding that he did not have the power to change these terms of reference.

However, he said considering the matters identified in the public protector’s report, compiled by Thuli Madonsela which forms the basis for the establishment of the commission, the extension requested now would be enough and that any other further extension would be for completing his report.

“But one of the routes that can be followed is for me to approach the president and request the president to consider amending the terms of reference so that they are not as wide as they are,” Zondo said.

He added that President Cyril Ramaphosa could also consider subjecting matters that he may amend and remove from the terms of reference to an investigation.

Zondo said it was important that issues of state capture were finalised so that the public knew what happened.

“What I have realised through my involvement with this commission … is that corruption is very deep in our society, there is a lot of corruption,” Zondo said, adding that what had been unearthed at the commission was only “the tip of the iceberg”.

Zondo said members of the public were entitled to their own opinion, in particular people that were of the view that the commission was a waste of time.

“I believe that this is a very important commission,” he said, adding that if the commission did not do its work, the message sent out to the public would be that those involved in corruption could get away with it

“I think it would be a very wrong message.”

Zondo said he believed he treated every with witness fairness, dignity and courtesy, including former president Jacob Zuma, adding that the commission would work without favour or prejudice.

Zondo said if the extension was not granted, then the commission would not be able to make any recommendations on the basis of an incomplete investigation.

He said that since the state attorney had not received a notice of opposition to the application for an extension, it was expected that the matter would be heard on 11 February.

Zondo said the minister of justice and correctional services, Ronald Lamola, informed him last year that the department of justice was working on ensuring that the Guptas, who are alleged to be at the centre of state capture, were brought back to South Africa so that they could appear before the commission.

Zondo said he was confident that the president of the country would release the commission’s report to the public once it has been completed and handed to him.

With regards to the perception that law enforcement agencies were slow to act on matters unearthed at the commission, Zondo said: “I don’t know whether it would be appropriate to conclude that since the commission started the law enforcement agencies are slow to act.”

He added that some testimony at the commission suggested that some of these agencies may have previously faced challenges which prevented them from acting on allegations of state capture, challenges which may or were being corrected.

Zondo said the heads of the country’s respective law enforcement agencies may also be mindful of the fact that acting with haste could lead to failed prosecutions.

In conclusion, he said if the Guptas did not testify at the commission, it would still have had gotten a good picture of what had transpired.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.