Three organisations – the Quaker Peace Centre, the FW de Klerk Foundation and AfriForum – have approached the Constitutional Court in a bid to compel Zuma to allow his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, to set up a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, allegedly by Zuma’s close friends, the Guptas.
The organisations argue that reasons existed for Zuma not to appoint the commission as there was a risk he would “expose himself and members of his family to civil and criminal liability” as he was implicated.
Legal action was necessary to stop the continuation of state capture while Zuma remained the president, they argue in court papers filed this week.
This comes as Zuma faces pressure from within the ANC and civil society to step down. The recent leaks of a cache of Gupta e-mails – apparently placing Zuma’s son Duduzane as the proxy in the litany of alleged corrupt activities between the Gupta family, government departments and parastatals – have worsened strained relations between Zuma and some ANC senior leaders as well as their counterparts in the tripartite alliance.
The ANC in the Northern Cape on Saturday ratcheted up the pressure on Zuma, calling on party members to rescue the ANC from the clutches of the Guptas.
Provincial chairperson Zamani Saul said that under the current leadership the ANC had lost “its moral compass”.
And in what is seen as a growing loss of popularity, Zuma was on Friday booed at the main Youth Day commemoration event in Ventersdorp, North West, with a group of students chanting “Zuma must fall” as he was about to deliver his keynote address.
It was the latest incident indicating his popularity has hit an all-time low, after labour federation Cosatu and the SACP – two of the ANC’s tripartite alliance partners – resolved to bar him from their official events.
In the latest application filed in the Constitutional Court, secretary of the Quaker Peace Centre in Cape Town, Rommel Roberts, said South Africans, who are still reeling from the country’s recent downgrade to junk status and its slump into recession, stood to suffer even more under Zuma’s leadership.
“The risks exist of state capture continuing unabated to the detriment of all inhabitants of South Africa, thus ultimately impacting directly or indirectly on the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights because valuable and scarce state resources are misdirected,” he said.
Roberts added that Zuma was “unable to fulfil his duties of president” because of problems arising “involving the risk of a conflict between the official responsibilities and private interests of the president. In such a situation the deputy president is constitutionally obliged by section 90(1)(a) of the constitution to act as president”.
In her State of Capture report, former public protector Thuli Madonsela recommended a judicial commission of inquiry be appointed by a judge selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Roberts said: “Given the serious risk of conflicted circumstances of the president, the deputy president assumes the office of acting president and is thus constitutionally authorised and solely responsible for the appointment of a commission of inquiry into state capture.
“The deputy president, by acting as president due to the risk of conflict of interest, assumes no other powers or functions of the president.”
Roberts’s arguments were backed by the FW de Klerk Foundation and AfriForum, who also mentioned that Ramaphosa, the SACP and opposition parties as well as civil society, trade unions and faith-based organisations had all called for a commission of inquiry.
Saul urged ANC members to rally against state capture. “More recently, the so-called Gupta leaks put a heavy strain on the battered image of the ANC as almost every week there are leaks that implicate senior leaders of the ANC in the parasitic capitalist network of the Gupta family,” said Saul at the ANC provincial special general council in Kimberley yesterday.
“In the face of such an assault on our movement, there can be no self-respecting member or leader of the ANC that can assume a position of neutrality. So we should be multi-dimensional, truthful and honest about our challenges.”
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, said the lawyers were studying the papers and that the deputy president would respond in court, if he deemed it necessary.
He said while Ramaphosa supported the setting up of the judicial commission of inquiry, it must be done within the framework of the law and constitution.
Constitutional law expert Professor Pierre de Vos said the applicants had a plausible argument but was unsure if the Constitutional Court would rule for a judicial commission of inquiry to be set by Ramaphosa “due to the doctrine of separation of powers”. He added: “It is the executive that could make that decision.”
Zuma’s spokesperson, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, had not responded at the time of publication.
Meanwhile, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane is expected to provide updates on a number of investigations by her office on Monday, including into state capture allegations. She announced this week she would conduct preliminary probes into irregularities at state-owned enterprises.
Asked if Mkhwebane would give updates on the investigations into the leaked Gupta e-mails, her spokesperson, Cleopatra Mosana, said state capture issues were sub judice.
Some political parties on Saturday called for Mkhwebane to raise an iron fist in dealing with the investigations. But United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said in his view Mkhwebane was a little too late, adding that she has had time to act.
“It is only now that she sees herself becoming irrelevant that she wants to jump. I don’t expect her to release anything new.”
Holomisa said the leaked e-mails had become an effective inquiry.
“They are a manifesto for the opposition parties. South Africa needs a political intervention. We are not interested in a commission of inquiry that is intended to delay the process,” he said.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has called for the investigation by Mkhwebane to include Zuma and other ministers implicated in the State of Capture report.