Zondo: ‘We must not be surprised when people refuse to testify against corruption’
Zondo has called for a re-evaluation of the country's approach to tackling corruption.
Judge Raymond Zondo. Photo: Gallo Images/Veli Nhlapo
“The concerns about corruption in this country being too high are not concerns that have only arisen now. It’s been many years,” Zondo told Newzroom Afrika on Monday.
Zondo called for a re-evaluation of the country’s approach to tackling corruption, saying: “Whatever we have been doing as a country to fight corruption simply doesn’t seem to be working.”
“For me, one of the things that were strange was that while I was hearing evidence of corruption and state capture during the time of the commission, people had the temerity to engage in large-scale corruption involving PPE during Covid.
“That said to me that people were looking at what the commission was doing despite the fact that the commission was uncovering extensive corruption, it meant that they didn’t care. What is it that makes people behave like this when this commission is still going on? Because one would have thought that they would have been frightened or deterred because they would have seen that it looked like there were consequences.
“It’s like they knew something I might have not known at the time, such as ‘the commission can hear evidence and make recommendations, but we know that nothing will be done to us, so we can continue with corruption as if there is no commission’.
“It’s like people knew there would be no consequences, and unfortunately, indeed, when one looks at the many incidences of corruption the country has had over the years and when one looks at where there have been consequences, it looks like it’s a very small part.
“What, as a country, do we need to change because we can’t be doing the same things we have been doing that’s not working? What do we need to do differently the day after elections because it looks like the levels of corruption seems to be going up.”
Is Ramaphosa’s doing enough on corruption?
While Zondo said more still needed to be done to address corruption in the country, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government was engaged in “some activities”.
“I don’t think there are areas where they have completed, but there are some activities. The question is whether it’s enough, or happening with sufficient pace.”
Zondo also questioned the pace at which Ramaphosa was implementing the commission’s findings against ministers and deputy ministers.
“I am not aware that he has announced to the country that he has done so in regards to so and so and has come to the conclusion that maybe the findings of the commission were not justifiable. The people of South Africa know the evidence that was led before the commission,” he said.
Last month, the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests cleared MPs Thulas Nxesi, Cedric Frolick, Mosebenzi Zwane and Winnie Ngwenya of any wrongdoing in the complaints arising from the commission of inquiry into state capture reports.
However, nothing has been announced yet about former state intelligence minister David Mahlobo after the state capture commission recommended that he be investigated for alleged illegal operations at the State Security Agency (SSA).
Mahlobo was instead appointed as Deputy Minister for Water and Sanitation earlier this year, a move for which Ramaphosa was criticised.
During his testimony at the state capture commission, Mahlobo denied claims he received money from the SSA during his tenure from 2014 to 2017, saying the evidence was based on hearsay.
“The things that have been said to implicate me by all these individuals are incorrect. They don’t even have a shred of evidence, chair. They have to demonstrate that. All of them that appeared here… they told you. chair. It’s hearsay,” he said at the time.
However, Zondo said that while he was not calling on the president to agree with every recommendation of the state capture commission, he expected him to have said something.
“The question is, what is the message that this sends to the public? I’m not saying the president must agree with every recommendation of the commission, but he needs to make an assessment and make a decision on whether he agrees with the findings because otherwise, people get concerned and ask what the point was. Next time, when we ask people to come forward with evidence and they refuse, we must not be surprised because doing so gets them killed,” said Zondo.