Scepticism is mounting that the alleged masterminds of South Africa’s biggest-ever embezzlement of state funds will ever be held to account. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Scepticism is mounting that the alleged masterminds of South Africa’s biggest-ever embezzlement of state funds will ever be held to account. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Why the kingpins who looted SA may get off

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Oct 22, 2018

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JOHANNESBURG - A number of people are doubting whether the alleged masterminds of SA’s "biggest-ever embezzlement of state funds" will ever be held to account.

The commission that was set up to take a deeper look into the looting has been slowed down by procedural issues and may need two years to finish, according to Bloomberg.

Former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan estimated that it may even cost taxpayers more than R100 billion to continue the commission.

It also should be noted that the state capture commission has no powers to prosecute anyone. 

In fact, criminal charges would have to be pursued only by the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), following the commission.

"The fear is that there could be fatigue over state capture," Mzukisi Qobo, an associate professor at the University of Johannesburg and co-author of a study into how the systemic looting was orchestrated, told Bloomberg.

"The institutional mechanisms for enforcing the rule of law have been depleted. The Zondo commission, as necessary as it is, is insufficient to deal decisively with the legacy of institutional decay that the Zuma administration wrought on the country."

The state capture commission initially had 6 months to be completed, Zondo said that it was not enough time and public hearings only began in August.

It has also not been confirmed yet if former South African president, Jacob Zuma, will be giving testifying at the commission.

Zuma continues to deny 

Zuma has denied any wrongdoing and called the commission’s work politically motivated. 

The former president is due to appear in court next month to face corruption charges related to a 1990s arms deal.

Former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, ordered the establishment of the probe two years ago. 

Her own investigation implicated the three Gupta brothers, who were friends with Zuma and in business with his son, Duduzane Zuma.

"I’m concerned about the matter of state capture remaining unresolved for a long time as ill-gotten assets will be gone by then," Madonsela told Bloomberg. 

"If evidence has been lost it’s not due to the commission’s tardiness but the inertia that preceded it, compounded by the lengthy process of vetting its investigators."

"A lot of information has come out already and it’s a great process," said Wayne Duvenhage, chief executive of civil-rights group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).

"We are in this for the long run. If we have to get to some of these cases in three years’ time or five years’ time, so be it. Those who were responsible for state capture are not going to escape the transgressions and the law."

Ajay Gupta, the eldest brother, denied the allegations in an affidavit filed in Dubai, where the family has a home. 

His lawyer, Mike Hellens, told the commission the Guptas won’t return to SA because they fear being arrested by authorities they believe are reckless and incompetent. 

While SA concluded an extradition treaty with the United Arab Emirates last month, it hasn’t requested the Guptas’ arrest.

Ironically, the one victim the commission has claimed was an ally of Ramaphosa, Nhlanhla Nene, who resigned as finance minister this month.

Nene testified that he met with the Guptas on multiple occasion at their home.

His statements at the commission contradicted previous statements that he had made before. Nene had said that he only encountered the Guptas in public.

The hearing has been postponed and will resume in November

The government should have considered establishing a special law-enforcement unit that could have taken immediate and decisive action against those responsible for state capture, according to Ebrahim Fakir, director of the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute, who said South Africans looking for accountability are likely to be disappointed.

“People will not get what they are hoping for from the commission,” he said.


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