Ralph Mathekga

No more 'business as usual' after leaked emails

2017-06-05 08:44

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The ongoing release of the Gupta emails in the media has got us in a situation where the issue of state capture is more urgent than ever before.

With the emails now out in the public, each and every decision by government will be viewed with suspicion until a full inquiry into state capture is undertaken.

The emails show the extent to which President Jacob Zuma’s administration could be compromised. It is untenable that the administration can continue with a ‘business as usual’ attitude while facing mountains of allegations questioning the integrity and soundness of some of the decisions made by government.

There is now a compelling reason to urgently put into place a commission of inquiry into state capture, as recommended by the former public protector, Thuli Madonsela.  

President Zuma has since indicated he will ask the court to review the remedial action proposed by the public protector that there ought to be a commission of enquiry into state capture.

Zuma’s position is that the public protector was wrong to recommend that the chief justice, and not himself, has to appoint the judge who is to head the commission. Zuma’s argument is that he has an executive prerogative to appoint the judge to head the commission.

At the centre of the issue is whether he is justified in his attempt to invoke the principle of executive prerogative, despite him being implicated in the process of state capture.

I am of the view that Zuma has demonstrably abused his executive prerogative to a point where he has no valid claim that he should be allowed to exercise this prerogative by having to be the one to appoint the judge to head the commission. Zuma’s plea would only make sense if he were not implicated. Be that as it may, what worries me further is that the court will only be able to finalise this issue later in the year, reportedly in October.

In light of the release of the emails, it makes no sense to have to wait for the normal review of the recommendations of the public protector by Zuma. It is important that this review is dealt with as a matter of urgency, and expedited as soon as possible so that the commission can be set.

Recalling the manner in which Zuma dealt with the Nkandla report, it is clear that the president is using delaying tactics to avoid having to set up a commission. The Gupta emails show unequivocally that while South Africa is waiting for the formal court process to give a way forward regarding who can appoint a judge to head the commission, crime might be actually underway.

The emails show that those who are involved in the process of state capture might be furthering their capture while we wait to determine who must appoint a judge to head the inquiry.

This is a scary picture for me in that it amounts to having to watch criminals committing crime while we wait for a few months to decide who has the right to investigate the matter. The sad part is that those who are allegedly involved are aware that there will be a commission; hence they might also try to cover their tracks.

It is for this reason that I believe the court’s hearing regarding who has to appoint the judge to head the commission has become an urgent matter following the release of the emails, and cannot wait until October. This issue has to be handled immediately.

Of course there will be further appeals with the aim to delay the matter, which is why we have to get the ball rolling as soon as yesterday.

The leaked emails show that if this issue is not dealt with urgently, the mere allegations of state capture will further corrode the integrity of our political system, and we will be rightfully accused of having stood watch as the most sinister scheme unfolds.  

- Ralph Mathekga is an independent political analyst and author of the book When Zuma Goes. He writes a weekly column for News24.

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