South African President Jacob Zuma expressed his well wishes on the occasion of 20 years of diplomatic relations with China. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Cape Town - The Democratic Alliance said on Thursday it has written to President Jacob Zuma to demand that he set out the terms of reference into the long-awaited commission of inquiry into state capture.

"It has also been almost a week since Zuma announced that the commission would finally be established but nothing can proceed until the terms of reference have been clarified and released," James Selfe, the chairman of the DA's federal executive, said.

Selfe said the establishment of the commission was "so far beyond overdue it is astounding". 

If Zuma had complied with former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's directive in November 2015 to establish the commission to probe allegations of widespread abuse of public funds to benefit notably the powerful Gupta family, it would have concluded its work by June last year, he said.

Instead, Zuma went to court to challenge Madonsela's instruction that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng should appoint the head of the commission of inquiry. He argued that this ran counter to the constitutional provision that it was the president's prerogative.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Zuma appoints #StateCapture commission

But in mid-December the Pretoria High Court dismissed his legal challenge in a scalding judgment, terming it ill-advised and reckless. Judge Dunstan Mlambo held that the president was so personally conflicted that Madonsela's directive that the Chief Justice name the presiding judge of the inquiry, held reason.

Zuma lodged an appeal but last week, under apparent pressure from the ruling African National Congress, appointed the commission, duly headed by a judge recommended by Mogoeng.

Selfe said the commission could not start its work without terms of reference. He also argued that these be restricted to the scope of work set out by Madonsela, as any attempt to widen these could be an attempt by Zuma to drag out the work of the commission and delay any eventual adverse findings.

"The Commission must get to work urgently and probe the serious allegations of state capture lodged against President Zuma, his son Duduzane, and the controversial Gupta brothers. The ongoing discussion about the terms of reference for the inquiry and Zuma’s repeated attempts to have the report reviewed have been nothing but delaying tactics. The reality is that the terms of reference are already established by the report, which must now simply be implemented."

African News Agency/ANA