Former AG Terence Nombembe to head investigations in state capture inquiry

Former Auditor General Terence Nombembe. (Brett Steele)
Former Auditor General Terence Nombembe. (Brett Steele)

Johannesburg – Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Wednesday appointed former Auditor-General Terence Nombembe to lead a team of investigators probing allegations into state capture.

"I have no doubt that the commission will derive a lot of value from Mr Nombembe's participation in this commission as head of investigators," said Zondo.

Announcing key members of the team at the Office of the Chief Justice in Midrand, Zondo said Nombembe would be joined by legal heavyweight Paul Joseph Pretorius SC, along with Isaac Vincent Maleka SC, Leah Gcabashe SC and Thandi Victoria.

READ: 10 key points on the State Capture Inquiry

Dr Khotso de Wee has been appointed as the commission's secretary.

Zondo said Nombembe, who is the CEO of South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, was part of a high-level panel that was established by the Speakers Forum to table a report on the impact of legislation in South Africa.

He was the chairperson of the Gauteng Ethics and Anti-Corruption Advisory Council, a board member of the South African Reserve Bank and was representing government, and previously served as the Auditor-General of the Republic of South Africa for five years.

Speaking about Nombembe's role, Zondo said: "This person will lead a team of investigators. This team will be multi-disciplined in order to cope with the type of investigation that this commission requires."

The commission, which officially began its work on March 1, is in the process of identifying premises.

Zondo said the identity of the investigators would not be disclosed "for understandable reasons".

After concluding its work, the commission will compile a report which it will hand over to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

"Where it appears that there may have been criminal conduct, the commission will make recommendations that the relevant authorities look into that issue, and where prosecutions, are justified they must act."

Zondo said that, like most commissions, if people gave evidence to the commission, that evidence may not be used against the individual in subsequent criminal proceedings.

However, he said, that regulation was not peculiar to this commission.

"If you look at the regulations of past commission there is an equivalent provision, I think there was a similar provision in the Arms Deal Commission…"

Advocate Pretorius, the leader of the legal team, will at times lead evidence.

Zondo said the commission was given a certain task and it needed to carry out that task.

"That task might need that certain evidence or certain people who have given evidence in other forums might have to give evidence in the commission as well. If somebody that is required to give evidence in the commission has a lawful ground not to give evidence, that issues will be looked into by the commission at the time."

He said it was known that in the National Assembly there were committees that were hearing evidence into state capture and he had no doubt that the committees would not be as in-depth as the commission plans to be.

Zondo's team plans on meeting with leaders of Parliament to discuss what information could assist the commission.

'Six months not enough'

He admitted that it was going be impossible to complete the investigation within six months and he had raised the matter with Ramaphosa.

"I have reason to believe that the Presidency is looking into how the matter is going to be dealt with."

On reluctant witnesses, Zondo said the Commissions Act read with the regulations gave the commission powers to deal with people who may not want to give evidence.

The commission will look very closely at instances where individuals were no longer in South Africa.

Zondo said, "It is something that can't escape our attention because of what we read in the newspapers about what is happening."

While the commission had powers to investigate, it did not have the power to prosecute.

"We do not have teeth to prosecute, we will recommend to the relevant authorities that have the power to prosecute."

Zondo said, "The desired outcome is that at the end of the investigation by this commission and the submission of the report to the president by myself and the release to the report to the public, hopefully South Africans will understand the depths of this state capture issue.

"How deep it was, how it came about and what should be done to make sure that South Africa never gets to that situation again."

Those who would have conducted criminal conduct in relation to the issues of state capture, would need to be dealt with in terms of the criminal justice, said Zondo.

He said the investigation would be conducted in an objective, thorough and professional manner.

Zondo said the commission was taking all the reasonable steps to make sure that the issue of security for its members was given priority.

The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants board welcomed Nombembe's appointment.

Chair of the board Lwazi Bam said, "With the increasingly negative public sentiment around allegations of corruption and state capture, the work of the commission is critical to restoring waning public faith and putting South Africa back on the path of ethical governance and leadership."

Bam added that as part of restoring trust in state institutions and rebuilding the national institutions, the work of the commission will be an important foundation.

"It has been said that this is probably the most important Commission to unearth the extent of the corruption and wrongdoing that has allegedly been perpetrated under the banner of state capture."

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