Johannesburg - If another group of people, fully intent on emptying the state’s coffers and making all key decisions in the running of the country, were ever to target South Africa the way the Gupta family had, there was no way to stop it, simply because there have been no changes made in protecting the country.
A year after handing over the voluminous report that charted how one family captured and stripped South Africa of billions of rands, commission chairperson, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo reflecting on the year past, said nothing has changed, and therefore, there is nothing to stop it from happening again.
“If another group of people were to do the same, we still cannot stop it. Simply because I have seen nothing changed. If Parliament cannot protect its people, who will?” Zondo asked.
The Chief Justice was delivering the keynote address at a colloquium hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) on Thursday.
The academic conference and meeting of the minds, entitled: Post Zondo: The Future of Democracy, brought together researchers, thought-leaders and civil society influencers to reflect on the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector including Organs of State and how state capture impacted the country’s young democracy.
Posed with the question: “Has the capturing of the state placed democracy at risk?”
Zondo answered: “Unequivocally, yes”.
Reflecting on major points raised in testimonies from about 300 witnesses, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, and more than eight million pages of documentation, Zondo said there were different forms of state capture.
“But, there is no doubt that when one goes through the evidence, the Gupta’s and those who worked with them, planned this project of state capture in good time and worked on it in good time,” Zondo said.
He said that the role of the National Assembly in state capture, demonstrated “beyond any doubt” that democracy was at risk due to state capture.
He reminded that the National Assembly was elected to represent the people of South Africa, but the report detailed various instances where Parliament failed to take steps to ensure state capture was exposed early and before South Africans lost billions of rands.
“The reason it failed is because the leading party, the ANC, failed to investigate the earlier allegations and therefore the Guptas continued with their project.
“Parliament did not stop it when it could have,” Zondo said frankly.
As a reminder, Zondo reflected on one of his recommendations in the state capture report to prevent a similar Gupta-type looting of South Africa, was by installing a standing anti-state capture commission “so that even if the majority in Parliament don’t want to answer or ask certain questions, the commission can ask it so nothing is swept under the carpet ever again”.