It would be ‘a disaster’ if the state capture commission’s lifespan is not extended – Zondo

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chairperson of the commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture, has expressed concern that he might not be granted an extension which he applied for last week.

Zondo said it would be “a disaster” if the Pretoria High Court did not grant his commission an extension until the end of the year.

“This would mean that all necessary investigations will not be done,” Zondo told the media on Thursday afternoon.

He said should the extension not be granted, the commission would not be able to make any findings as the inquiry still had a long way to go before it could exhaust the terms of reference given to it by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The commission was initially expected to last six months which was later extended to the end of next month.

However, when the commission realised proceedings would not be concluded by then it approached the high court last week requesting an extension until December.

“Very little has been finalised. So it would be pointless to even try and make findings without going through all the investigations,” said Zondo.

He, however, added: “At this stage the information I have is that nobody has indicated or communicated to the state attorney that they intend to oppose the application to extend the commission’s lifespan.”

Zondo indicated that even if the court was to extend the commission’s duration, it would be unable to conclude its investigations should the terms of reference remain unchanged.

I don’t have the power to amend the terms of reference, the power resides with the president.

Commission terms of reference are to investigate:

  • Whether‚ and to what extent and by whom, attempts were made through any form of inducement or for any gain of whatsoever nature of influence member of the national executive (including deputy ministers‚ office bearers and/or functionaries employed by or office bearers of any state institution or organ of state or directors of the boards of state-owned enterprises (SOEs);
  • In particular the commission must investigate the veracity of allegations that former deputy minister of finance‚ Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor were offered Cabinet positions by the Gupta family;
  • Whether then president Jacob Zuma had any role in the alleged offers of Cabinet positions to Jonas and Mentor by the Gupta family;
  • Whether the appointment of any member of the national executive was disclosed to the Gupta family or any other unauthorised person before being made; and if so‚ whether the president is responsible for such conduct;
  • Whether the president or any member of the executive or public official violated the Constitution or any relevant ethical code by facilitating unlawful awarding of tenders by SOEs or any organ of state to benefit the Gupta family or any other family or individual;
  • The nature and extent of corruption‚ if any‚ in the awarding of contracts‚ tenders to companies‚ business entities or organisations by public entities listed under Schedule 2 of the Public Finance Management Act of 1999;
  • Whether there were any irregularities‚ undue enrichment‚ corruption and undue influence in the awarding of contracts‚ mining licences‚ government advertising in the New Age newspaper and any other government services in the business dealings of the Gupta family with government departments and SOEs;
  • Whether any member of the national executive, including deputy ministers unlawfully intervened in the matter of the closing of banking facilities for Gupta-owned companies;
  • Whether any advisers in the ministry of finance were appointed without proper procedures. In particular and as alleged to the Public Protector‚ whether two senior advisers who were appointed by (former cooperative governance and traditional affairs) minister Des Van Rooyen to the National Treasury were so appointed without following proper procedures; and
  • The nature and extent of corruption in the awarding of contracts and tenders to companies‚ business entities or organisations by government departments‚ agencies and entities. In particular‚ whether any member of the executive‚ public official or functionary of any organ of state influenced the awarding of tenders to benefit themselves‚ their families or entities in which they held a personal interest.

Zondo said the commission was therefore left with two options, for the chairperson to either exercise power vested on him by the terms of reference granting him power to refer some of the matters to another capable law enforcement agency.

The other option was to approach the president and request that he amends the terms of reference.

“The terms of reference of the commission are critical because we can’t stop or not investigate whatever falls under the terms of reference. As long as something falls under the terms of reference we are obliged to investigate it.

“It has become clear to me that we would need at least a few more years if we were to investigate everything that falls under the terms of reference that’s currently in place.

“I don’t have the power to amend the terms of reference, the power resides with the president. The other route therefore is to approach the president and see if he can amend there terms.

“As long as the president says no, I am not going to change the terms of reference then we will have to oblige to continue until such a time as we have exhausted all the terms of reference,” said Zondo.

He said should the commission only stick to former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s terms of reference to investigate “allegations that the Guptas may have influenced Cabinet appointments and received special treatment for a coal business linked to the family and one of the president’s sons” then the inquiry may be able to stick to its end of year extension.

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July 2020

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