State capture report release should light a fire under law enforcement

Civil society groups say the report is just the beginning of the end of the commission, and will hopefully see those responsible for state capture being held to account.

It took almost four years – and close to R1 billion – but South Africans can finally get a glimpse of the Zondo Commission’s report, and civil society organisations hope this means law enforcement bodies will finally be spurred into action against the perpetrators of state capture.

The Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State’s initial report was officially handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier on Tuesday, after he was initially supplied with an electronic copy of the report on Friday.

Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – who chaired the commission – made a ceremonial handover of a hard copy at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, but the handover of this report doesn’t yet mark the end of the work of the commission, which still has to hand over two more parts of said report.

The presidency released the full version of the report to the public shortly thereafter, with the president saying this is being done in the interest of transparency.

Time for action

State Capture report to be released to the public 'within hours'
Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo hands over the first part of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry’s report to President Cyril Ramaphosa on 4 January 2022. Photo: YouTube screenshot

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse’s (Outa’s) Wayne Duvenage described yesterday as “extremely momentous”.

“The report will have recommendations that hopefully speak to the need for accountability for those who transgressed,” he said. “So it’s big”.

Duvenage believes the country’s prosecuting authorities had been dragging their heels, but is hopeful the release of the first part of the report would also spur them to action.

The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac’s) Lawson Naidoo, meanwhile, was hopeful this was “the beginning of the end for the commission”.

Also Read: Thuli Madonsela welcomes ‘great day’, as state capture report to be handed over

The release of the report is an important milestone in the lifespan of the commission – which when it was first established in 2018 was only intended to run for 180 days, but has been extended several times since then.

The commission’s latest extension (its sixth in total) was granted just last week. Prior to that, after wrapping up its hearings – which saw more than 330 witnesses give evidence – in August but had been working to complete its report by the end of December.

In an announcement just before Christmas, though, the commission said it would not be able to meet this deadline and that after discussing it with the President, a decision had been taken to hand over the report in three installments – with the first (an interim report) to be handed over before the 2021-year-end, but the second (also an interim report) only to be handed over this month, and the third (the final report) in February.

“Defining Moment” in fight against state capture

Speaking at a briefing following yesterday’s handover, the President described it as “a defining moment in our country’s effort to definitively end the era of state capture and to restore the integrity, credibility and capability of our institutions but more importantly our government”.

He said the Presidency would begin the task of considering the different parts of the report and “putting in place appropriate mechanisms to effectively and thoroughly process the findings and recommendations” as and when they were submitted and that he would hand the report – along with an indication of his plans to implement its recommendations – over to Parliament by the end of June.

However, he said the Presidency would not be commenting on the contents of the different parts of the report until they had all been submitted. In the meantime, though, he emphasised that other state agencies were still in a position to take any action they deemed fit.

Zondo, meanwhile, said at the briefing that part one of the report consisted of three volumes.

The first, he said, dealt with South African Airways and its associated companies; the second, with The New Age; and the third, with the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and public procurement in South Africa.

He said “a certain number of state-owned enterprises and topics” would be dealt with in the second instalment of the report and “the rest of the entities and other topics,” in the third.

Court action almost blocked handover

The handover was almost delayed by an eleventh-hour bid by lobby group Democracy in Action (DIA) to halt it.

Also Read: Bid to interdict Ramaphosa from receiving state capture report struck from roll

However, Judge Avrille Maier-Frawley struck from the roll – with costs – the urgent application to interdict the handover from going ahead.

Essentially, DIA believes Ramaphosa has been implicated at the commission and that the report should as a result rather have been received by either Deputy President David Mabuza or Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

Maier-Frawley struck the application from the roll because she found any urgency was self-created. She has yet to provide her full reasons though.

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