Parliament has accused Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of encroaching on the principle of separation of powers, following his remarks that the House would still not be able to prevent state capture if any attempts were made.
Zondo made the comments during the Human Sciences Research Council’s colloquium entitled “Post Zondo: The Future of Democracy”.
Zondo chaired the commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture and submitted his final report just over a year ago.
The report made scathing findings against the government and the role of Parliament in failing to stop state capture.
“I don't think there is anything that has happened which could prevent people from trying or starting (state capture).
“What is important is that we should be able to identify it as soon as there are signs, and deal with it. That is where Parliament becomes important, because I don’t believe that as things stand, there is any change in Parliament, from what it was, that would make sure that this time they would stop it.
“So it (state capture) could happen,” he said.
His comments were met with strong opposition by Parliament, with spokesperson Moloto Mothapo saying Zondo’s criticism was unfortunate, lacked merit, and undermined the principles of separation of powers.
“It is inappropriate for the Chief Justice, representing one of the arms of state, to engage in public attacks on Parliament.
“We note that the attacks are also directed at the executive in so far as the current policy position of the electoral system is concerned.
“This is in the wake of a matter that is before the court on the electoral system.
“We believe that utilizing the established channels to address any concerns he may have regarding Parliament's implementation of the commission's recommendations would have been more appropriate.
“It is not the place of a Chief Justice to make such public remarks unless and until he is required to adjudicate on a matter with impartiality,” said Mothapo.
He said Parliament, through the efforts of the Programming and Rules Committees, has taken steps to address the recommendations of the commission.
Mothapo said if Zondo reached out to Parliament with his concerns, he would have been comprehensively apprised of all the ongoing work.
“To improve accountability, Parliament is currently developing rules and guidelines to enhance its oversight processes. Cooperation between Parliament and the Executive is also being fostered to facilitate executive attendance without the need for additional legislation or rules.
“Furthermore, to strengthen oversight over the Presidency, Parliament is further actively conducting research to explore international best practices. This work is vital in laying a solid foundation for enhanced oversight and accountability in relation to the Presidency.
“Several other initiatives are being either explored or implemented to hold the Executive accountable based on the outcomes of the Zondo Commission. The Rules Committee has decided that quarterly reports on the progress of these initiatives must be tabled.”