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Zondo commission’s results and performance

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 26, 2022


By Professor B Dikela Majuqwana

In November 2016, former public protector Thuli Madonsela entered the books of history as she released the “State of Capture” report recommending that South Africa undertake a commission of inquiry into corruption involving the State and government.

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At the heart of the inquiry was the role played by former president Jacob Zuma and his associates in the ANC and in business. As he resigned from his role as president of South Africa, Zuma appointed Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlondolozi Zondo to head the commission, which was later dubbed the Zondo commission to investigate “state capture”.

Wednesday 22 June saw an announcement of the final results of the commission. This is after four years of hard work and expenditure in excess of R1billion.

The first question that the layman may want to ask is if indeed the commission has succeeded in exposing corruption in South Africa. This is in the light of recent revelations about a discovery that President Cyril Ramaphosa may have failed to report a crime at his Phala-Phala farm involving millions of US dollars hidden in a mattress.

The second question concerns broader consequences of the Zondo commission in relation to the future of South Africa and perhaps the ANC which is mired in factional conflicts. If it turns out that the commission had little to do with ending corruption but more to do with advancing one side in the factional fights within the ruling party, then why did the chief justice fail to expose this apparent abuse of the law of the land.

Answers to all these questions will combine to give us a clue as to the role of the judiciary in protecting its own interests either by proxy through political influence or by a crass display of indifference of the role the law plays in sustaining and accentuating the conditions of poverty in South Africa.

In many respects some of the questions just posed have already been answered by the utterances of the leading protagonists in our politics and in the ANC. As soon as the report was released, they say one anticipated consequence of the Zondo report is a split in the ANC and in Cabinet.

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This seems inevitable if we draw attention to the fact that this commission set out to investigate corruption under Zuma’s government. Commentators have up to now failed to find any sign that Zondo’s final report paints Zuma as corrupt.

They say the report merely recommends more investigation of certain people who are close associates of Zuma and are members of the ANC. Among these are Ace Magashule, Duduzane Zuma, Mosebenzi Zwane, and the Gupta brothers.

Huge amounts of money amounting to billions of rand are said to be involved in their corruption heist. There doesn’t seem to be any definite proof in this report to save us from further investigations.

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Up to this point we have taken it for granted that the state capture narrative is correct since the legal fraternity has not attempted to question it. Perhaps we need to invite the judges who led this enquiry to help us understand what state capture is. As laymen, we understand the supreme institution of the state and the guardian of our Constitution is the national Parliament that makes our laws.

The executive is a subordinate arm of the state whose role is to execute administrative functions and to fashion our long term future as a society. Therefore, if this view is correct, to capture the state should mean to gain control of our Parliament to mould it to fashion our laws for purposes of advancing a corrupt agenda that is not in the interest of society.

To my knowledge, of the many reviews of the state capture in South Africa up to now, not a single one has alerted us that our Parliament has been captured and that the state is no longer serving the interests of society.

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If the national Parliament as the supreme institution of state remains free from such capture, what we have in the Zondo commission is a view of the symptoms of corruption in South Africa, not its fundamental causes. This is the kind of corruption that can be handled well by the police and the prosecution system.

By the look of things, there was never a need for the Zondo commission itself. The recommendations to undertake further investigation never required an expensive national commission costing more than R1 billion. I am certain that in time the Zondo commission will be found to have been superfluous and a waste of resources.

If I am correct, the most important question that South Africans should ask themselves concerns the fitness for purpose of our law enforcement bodies and the extent to which they are being deliberately denuded to undermine the state from living up to its constitutional foundations. Will the National Prosecuting Authority, the SAPS, the courts and their judges ever rise to the challenge of serving society by eradicating corruption in their ranks? Or are we condemned to watch over them as vehicles to advance narrow political interests motivated by material gain by corrupt individuals?

Whatever the answer to such questions, I am convinced it does not require yet another investigation by a national commission. Our Parliament should be up to the task of supplying guidance to society.

* Majuqwana is head of engineering at the University of Zululand. He writes in his personal capacity.