BLSA warns against Zuma 'stealthily' changing terms of #StateCapture commission

Cape Town - Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has hit out at what it describes as a move by President Jacob Zuma to modify the terms of reference of the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Zuma announced the establishment of the commission, which was included as a remedial action in former public protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report, on Tuesday evening.  

The President said allegations that the "state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa" needed to be investigated. 

BLSA, a business advocacy group, said in a statement on Wednesday that while it welcomed the appointment of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo as the commission's head, it was concerned by what it said was the president’s attempts to “seek to rewrite, through stealth, the terms of reference of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry”.

This appears to be a reference to a section of Zuma’s announcement where he argued that the commission’s scope should be widened.  

“The commission must seek to uncover not just the conduct of some, but of all those who may have rendered our state or parts thereof vulnerable to control by forces other than the public for which government is elected,” read Zuma’s announcement. 

“There should be no area of corruption and culprit that should be spared the extent of this commission of inquiry.”

BLSA CEO Bonang Mohale said that both the Public Protector and the North Gauteng High Court had "made it clear that the former public protector's State of Capture Report had to form the basis of the Inquiry". 

“We deem the President’s remarks, intimating that Justice Zondo should broaden the scope of the inquiry, as an inappropriate attempt to redefine the terms of reference of the investigation,” said Mohale. 

Madonsela, meanwhile, told News24 that her understanding of what the commission's terms of reference should be was quite clear. "What has to be investigated is what my [probe] was investigating. There is no room to expand the commission to include what was never investigated.

Zondo's appointment welcomed 

The Chamber of Mines on Wednesday welcomed the appointment of Zondo to head the inquiry.

“The appointment of such a senior judicial officer to the position following his selection by the Chief Justice, is particularly welcomed given the importance of the task ahead both for the country and for the mining industry.

"In her October 2016 report, Ms Madonsela identified numerous mining-related issues. Further, poor governance has had a negative impact on investment, growth, jobs and the economy as a whole,” it said in a statement.  

Anti-corruption advocacy group the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), meanwhile, said the appointment of Zondo would ensure that that the inquiry is handled with “the appropriate speed, diligence and thoroughness needed”. 

“Previous inquiries were either hopelessly inadequate, such as the arms deal inquiry, or their findings ignored, leaving a bitter taste,” it said in a statement. 

South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) urged the commission to be “resolute in getting the investigation under way”, adding it should properly resourced. 

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