The State Capture Commission of Inquiry has made damning findings against Parliament on its oversight role to hold the executive accountable during the state capture era.
In his report, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo put the blame in the main squarely on the ANC for its unwillingness to expose allegations of malfeasance and corruption to public scrutiny.
Zondo stated that the national legislature has a constitutional duty to exercise oversight over the executive, including organs of state such as the state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
Zondo also said it has a duty to investigate or enquire where there was a reasonable cause to suspect unconstitutional, unlawful or improper conduct on the part of the members of executive.
He noted that allegations of state capture and improper influence by the Gupta brothers have long been in the public domain since 2011.
“Some degree of effective parliamentary oversight commenced in about mid-2017.
“Before that, the record is disturbing. Even after mid-2017, the parliamentary oversight record was patchy.”
Zondo said there was no evidence that the allegation made by ANC member Fikile Mbalula, now a transport minister, about the Guptas informing him of his appointment as a minister in 2011, were raised or probed in Parliament.
“That is regrettable,” he said.
He also noted that there were further developments in 2013 that should have prompted closer and more effective parliamentary scrutiny or action when it was openly acknowledged that public monies were being redirected towards the Gupta media empire.
“The problem here was not Parliament’s ability to ferret out the truth (questions put in the National Assembly by opposition MPs elicited admission in this regard) but the ANC stance that there was nothing wrong with this.”
He noted that reports about allegations of bribery offered to the former SAA CEO prompted no parliamentary scrutiny.
Although the ANC integrity committee had recommended that former president Zuma must step down in 2013 because of being connected to the Guptas, there was no evidence why the party failed to act on the recommendation.
The judge said further reports alleging improper Gupta influence and enrichment in SOEs emerged around 2014 and 2015.
Zondo noted that during Zuma’s term of office as president eight motions of no confidence were proposed by opposition parties.
“None succeeded. ANC MPs were instructed by their party to vote against these motions and by and large they did so.”
He also said DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone even wrote to the public enterprises portfolio committee chairperson Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba asking the Guptas be summoned to answer on undue influence over Zuma and government officials and proposed an inquiry.
“No attention was given to supporting an inquiry by Parliament. Despite the seriousness of the allegations the ANC continued to confirm its full confidence in its president Mr Jacob Zuma.”
Zondo noted with concern that when the Constitutional Court found that it failed to hold the executive to account regarding the Nkandla security upgrades, Parliament did not change its approach in relation to state capture and corruption.
This was because the “ANC acted in accordance with what was decided in party structures”.
However, it was not until 2016 when the adhoc committee on SABC was established and made critical findings, including that the public broadcaster was compromised by lapse of governance and that the board did not discharge its fiduciary duties.
In 2017, the portfolio committee on public enterprise conducted its own inquiry into Eskom, and found explanations around former CEO resignation, pension, leave and re-appointment to be unsatisfactory.
“This serves as an example of appropriate parliamentary oversight and shows that, where there was a will, there was a way,” Zondo said.
The Chief Justice also said when the ANC internal investigation into state capture failed after it commenced, the party and its MPs took no steps to invoke the “constitutionally enshrined oversight function of Parliament” or to use powers conferred on Parliament in the constitution and National Assembly rules.
“The truth of the matter, it seems, is the ANC as an organisation was unwilling, before mid-2017, to initiate or to support a parliamentary inquiry or inquiries into allegations concerned.
“The allegations implicated senior ANC leaders, right up to the president as well as others regarded by the ANC as its cadres and deployees.
“The leadership of the ANC remained committed to support president Zuma and the cadres or deployees, and was unwilling to expose the allegations of malfeasance to transparent public scrutiny,” Zondo said.