Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma's integrity as a leader took centre stage during the court hearing of his application to review the remedial action contained in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's State of Capture report on Tuesday.
Judge President Dunstan Mlambo asked Zuma's lawyer, legal heavyweight Advocate Ishmael Semenya, why Zuma had not acted on allegations of state capture as early as 2016.
"In April 2016, Zuma receives a letter from the public protector where serious allegations were made against him. He does nothing.
"In August the public protector tells the president that she is going to issue a report, he tries to stop it...He has done nothing than to inform Parliament that he intends to institute an inquiry.
"Is that the action of a reasonable president in the context of the Constitution?" asked Mlambo, who questioned Zuma's integrity for not standing by his word of establishing a commission of inquiry as he has repeatedly promised.
Zuma's legal team told the court earlier that Madonsela's remedial actions should be reviewed and set aside.
Madonsela was looking into allegations of an improper relationship between the president and the influential Gupta family in relation to key appointments in Zuma's Cabinet and the awarding of contracts at state-owned enterprises.
She said she did not have the necessary resources to finish her investigation into state capture and recommended a judicial inquiry, which was to be appointed by the president.
Mlambo grilled Semenya on his submissions again.
'Why did he not act?'
Semenya, who had earlier argued before Judge President Mlambo and High Court Judges Phillip Boruchowitz and Wendy Hughes, said that it was unlawful for Madonsela to dictate to the president that he should establish a commission of inquiry.
Mlambo asked Semenya: "He (Zuma) holds the view that no one can tell him how to act. Then why did he not act?"
Semenya came to Zuma's defence and said: "The president could not act until the review application was heard."
An unrelenting Mlambo then asked Semenya how the public should view Zuma's statements on the establishment of a commission of inquiry when he (Zuma) says: "Yes, I will do it, but no one is going to tell me how to do it."
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Semenya accused the former public protector of having held a certain view about current public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane saying that she had rushed to complete her investigation because "Mkhwebane was only a senior investigator in the office of the public protector".
Semenya told the court that it would be understandable if the court was hearing a matter in which Zuma had declined to establish a commission of inquiry.
"This application would be an entirely different matter," he said.
Charging back at Semenya, advocate Vincent Maleka SC, representing the Office of the Public Protector, said: "Even the president agrees to the need of the establishment of a commission of inquiry."
Maleka said Zuma had previously conceded that he understood that the establishment of a commission of inquiry was in "public interest".
Mlambo asked Maleka if the public protector did what she was expected to do by the Constitution to which Maleka responded: "The public protector has the powers to investigate, and she did do that.
“What she did not do was to make conclusive findings to support her report because she did not have the resources and the funding."
Maleka told the court that, if Madonsela had the necessary funding and resources, including investigators, she would have concluded her investigation before her term ended.
"The question becomes vital in the bigger scheme of things because she does not have the luxury to waste time and the public needed to know the outcomes of the investigation and that is why she asked the president to appoint a commission of inquiry."
Maleka said any responsible president would have dealt with the matter speedily instead of resorting to delaying tactics.
He asked the court to uphold the remedial actions made by Madonsela in her report.