One last extension and no more - Casac urges Zondo to give court programme for commission

2020-02-01 08:01
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Alon Skuy/Gallo)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Alon Skuy/Gallo) (Alon Skuy)

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The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) has urged Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) Raymond Zondo to provide the High Court with more detailed information of what issues the commission of inquiry into state capture still wishes to investigate and when it will complete its work.

Zondo has approached the High Court in a bid to extend the term of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State.

The chair of the commission is deeply concerned the inquiry won't complete its work before the end of February, when its stipulated term expires.

Last week, Zondo said it would be a "disaster" if the commission wasn't granted the 10-month extension it is requesting.

The proposed extension would give the commission until December 31 to complete its work and submit a report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

READ | Zondo says not granting commission extension will be a disaster

In papers filed to the court earlier this month, Zondo noted the "wide scope" of the commission's focus.

"The position is that the Commission has a very wide scope of investigation and too much work to cover within the time given to it," Zondo states in his founding affidavit.

He further added the "width of the terms of reference" means that the inquiry "would have to go on for about five if not six years in order to investigate every matter".

While the deputy chief justice noted that the inquiry still needs to deal with a range of issues, including alleged fraud and corruption at rail agency Prasa and whether "there was any failure by Parliament to properly perform its oversight obligations", Casac argues a "more detailed work programme will be a more compelling case for a final extension".

"South Africa needs to know when the Commission will finish its important work and report to the President with recommendations. We need to know how it will finish the remainder of its work – and by when," says Casac in a statement issued on Thursday.

The council, which is a respondent in Zondo's application, says each extension locks in resources which could be directed at "bodies with a constitutional mandate to hold individuals accountable".

The inquiry had cost over R356m from inception to the end of August last year, News24 previously reported.

In his affidavit the inquiry's chairperson noted that he will "reflect over the next few months" whether he should approach Ramaphosa to consider amending the terms of reference or rather refer matters of fraud and corruption which fall outside state capture as listed in the Public Protector's report to more appropriate departments or agencies.

Paragraph seven of the commission's terms of reference stated: "The Commission shall where appropriate refer any matter for prosecution, further investigation or the convening of a separate inquiry to the appropriate law enforcement agency, government department or regulator regarding the conduct of certain person/s."

Zondo argued that if the extension is not granted, it will "render useless all the work that the Commission has done since 2018".

While he believed the commission can complete its work if its term was extended to the end of 2020, Zondo left the door open to further requests, something of which Casac is not in favour.

"In his application, the DCJ leaves open the possibility of applying for yet another extension, saying that he may need more time to finalise the report. We believe that this uncertainty as to the end-date of the Commission is not in the public interest nor in the interests of efficient public administration."

Casac said it supported the request for an extension, if it is the final such approach to the court.

Zondo wanted the matter to be heard on an urgent basis when it is in court later this month.

Read more on:    casac  |  raymond zondo  |  state capture
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