For Mboweni's growth plan to succeed the ANC has to give up certain dogmatic positions that were formulated when 7% growth was the status quo, writes Adriaan Basson.
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The chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry in State Capture Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo during a media briefing on May 24, 2018. Picture: Gallo
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"She doesn't fully understand how the
legal system works as she has never practiced as an advocate."
These were the words of attorney Comfort
Ngidi in 2014, referring to the then public protector Thuli Madonsela.
Ngidi, a Zuma loyalist who led a group of "concerned"
KwaZulu-Natal lawyers on a campaign to discredit Madonsela's personal integrity
as well as her Nkandla report, is on the verge of being appointed an official
of the state capture commission of inquiry.
The inquiry, chaired by Justice Raymond
Zondo, is an outcome of the State of Capture report written by Madonsela who,
according to Ngidi, "doesn't fully understand how the legal system works".
Since the highest court in the land, the
Constitutional Court, vindicated Madonsela on the Nkandla report, Ngidi hasn't said
who, between him and Madonsela, "doesn't fully understand how the legal
system works". Nor has he conceded that Madonsela "fully understands
how the legal system works".
He has never said whether Madonsela's
supposed lack of understanding of how the legal system works applies to the 11
justices of the Constitutional Court who ruled in favour of her report and
analogically described her in the judgment as a biblical David who was up
against a Goliath.
That Ngidi was on the side of Goliath is a
well-known fact. What is not known – and can never be known until the damage is
done – is the extent to which Ngidi will be prepared to do the bidding for the
Goliath of Nkandla if he is appointed assessor of evidence in the state capture
commission of inquiry.
Yet, Zondo is considering appointing him to
work in an inquiry whose terms of reference and its powers were framed by
Madonsela "who doesn't understand how the legal system works".
It gets worse when we consider the fact that
the subject of the inquiry is Zuma who, we should assume Ngidi believes,
understands fully how constitutional democracy works. Every allegation of state
capture that has to be tested directly or indirectly points to Ngidi's political
All evidence that has to be assessed in the
final analysis has to do with how Zuma, by omission or commission, outsourced
control of the state and its resources to the Guptas and their allies to the
detriment of the country. The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that both
Ngidi and Zondo had confirmed Ngidi's pending appointment.
Even if Ngidi is never appointed, the mere
fact that Zondo is considering him is a reason for extreme concern. Should the
appointment go ahead, it would the first blunder Zondo would have committed. It
would do serious harm to the credibility of the commission.
Given the justifiable anger state capture
has provoked among South Africans, some of whom risked their lives to expose
it, the last thing that the country needs now is the discrediting of the
inquiry that is meant to restore the rule of law.
Many people doubt whether it would yield
anything. Given the whitewash that became of the Arms Deal Commission, the lack
of substantive outcomes following the Marikana Commission and the disregard for
the recommendations of the Fees Commission, cautious optimism is justified.
Zondo must not dash the little hope there is in the state capture commission.
He should build on it.
He must also realise that if the commission
is discredited as a result of his actions, his own personal integrity would be
on the line. He surely wouldn't want to unwittingly sabotage a commission he is
Zondo should appreciate that although many
South Africans see the commission as the last hope, their optimism is shaky. They
are adopting a wait-and-see approach.
To ensure the credibility of the commission
would require him to see his leadership beyond strictly being a judge who is
interested in evidence presented before the commission. The very nature of his powers
as chairman of the commission, which include staffing, could make or break the
Zondo has the opportunity to make history.
There is no middle ground. Either the commission becomes a spectacular failure
and joins ranks of financially wasteful inquiries or it becomes a spectacular
success, and sets a precedent for future commissions of inquiry.
Although by its very nature, the commission
was tasked to investigate far more complex matters, it has several advantages not
enjoyed by other commissions before it. The first is that it was not
established as a presidential prerogative, but as a directive of the public
protector and endorsed by the high court. Presidential manipulation is
therefore limited – at least theoretically.
Second, it has powers above those that
would ordinarily apply to a commission of inquiry set up by the president as
his/her own discretion.
Third, it has specific issues to be
investigated that the president cannot amend since it was not established at
Fourth, its powers are no less than those
of the public protector's. This means its recommendations are binding unless
set aside by a court of law.
Fifth, the head of the commission was not
chosen by the president but by the chief justice, giving it extraordinary
Lastly, there is huge public interest which
means the commission is watched from every angle. Civil society organisations
that have been in and out of courts and on the streets to enforce the rule of
law, even as Ngidi and his "concerned" comrade were moving to the
opposite direction, are watching it.
Should Zondo appoint Ngidi, civil society will
have to approach the courts to interdict him. Sadly, this could derail the
- Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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