Zondo commission report on Eskom adds to the ANC’s woes

Part 4 of the five-volume Zondo Commission Report, on Eskom, has been released. However, some of the issues contained in the report leave a bitter taste, says the writer. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Part 4 of the five-volume Zondo Commission Report, on Eskom, has been released. However, some of the issues contained in the report leave a bitter taste, says the writer. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published May 8, 2022


By Bheki Mngomezulu

Before the commission on state capture (the Zondo Commission) began its work, there were mixed emotions about it.

Some were engulfed by euphoria about it and its prospects, others were sceptical about it. The latter group raised concerns on whether the commission would achieve its goals. Importantly, they were not convinced that it had been appointed with good intentions.

Instead, they interpreted it as one of the means used to purge those who were associated with former president Jacob Zuma. With the benefit of hindsight, it has become clear that while certain truths have surfaced in this commission, it has had casualties whose names were never contemplated before the commission began its work.

One of these earlier casualties was Nhlanhla Nene, who was the Minister of Finance. While the commission was under way, many blunders were committed by people who were supposed to know better – the judge who presided over the commission and those who served as evidence leaders. It was some of these blunders that resulted in the incarceration of Zuma under questionable circumstances.

It is now history that this incident had adverse effects on the country. Many people lost their lives, the country’s infrastructure was damaged, some businesses closed down (others were unable to recover), scores of people lost their jobs and the country’s image was dented. Importantly, these blunders left the country polarised along racial lines, as was the case in Phoenix in KwaZulu-Natal.

As the first three volumes of the Zondo Commission reports were released, they were welcomed differently by the South African public. As would be expected, ANC leaders were implicated in these reports. This did not come as a surprise because the ANC is the governing party and its leaders were directly or indirectly involved in many of the issues covered by the commission.

But, contrary to people’s expectations, not all the suspects were found to have done anything wrong in these reports. Another twist was when the names of people who were assumed to be “innocent” suddenly appeared in the reports.

The questions which beg for attention are the following: Did the Zondo Commission live up to its expectations? In other words, did it achieve its intended goals? Did the judge and evidence leaders perform their duties as expected or did they get enmeshed in party politics? Was it justifiable to spend the amounts of money that were used to sustain the commission? Was it justifiable to continuously extend the term of the commission beyond its original time frame? These are but some of the many questions that have been triggered by the first three reports of the Zondo Commission.

The release of Part 4 of the report, on Eskom, which is the penultimate part of the five-volume Zondo Commission Report, has given credence to some of the questions posed above.

It talks about governance issues as they pertain to the activities that were carried out by the Tegeta company. Importantly, the report talks about a number of people who were role players. Some of the findings point to lapses in governance adherence.

Certain decisions were taken or not taken in order to appease certain individuals as opposed to abiding by governance principles. In that sense, the report is useful in terms of reminding us as a nation how important issues of governance are. Invoked in the report are concepts like: accounting authority, oversight and implementing agent.

But while these observations revive hope about the value of this report, some of the issues contained in the report leave a bitter taste. For example, one gets a sense that Justice Raymond Zondo and his team sometimes took a pause as members of the judiciary entered into party politics – especially the ANC’s internal matters.

The roles played by people like Paul Mashatile, Thulas Nxesi, Zizi Kodwa, Gwede Mantashe and many others should have been made more explicit. This would avert any insinuation or perception that the commission has overstepped its reach and entered into the ANC’s factional politics.

Some will ask: where was Pravin Gordhan in all of this? There are also omissions in this report. It is silent on why load shedding was not an issue while Brian Molefe was in charge of Eskom? If Molefe colluded with the Guptas, should the reduction in load shedding be credited to him and the Guptas? If that is the case, would it not be proper to praise the Gupta brothers instead of blaming them for Eskom’s challenges? What does the commission say about the statements made by Matshela Koko when commending the Guptas for keeping the lights on?

Part 4 of the Zondo Commission report has assisted us on governance issues but has raised questions on several issues.

* Mngomezulu Professor of Political Science and Deputy Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape