Zuma's hanging by his terms of reference
Why the president is stalling with the terms of reference for the state capture inquiry
It is understandable why President Jacob Zuma’s office is procrastinating over the terms of reference for the judicial commission of inquiry on state capture.
Although there is a mountain of allegations and evidence in the public domain on the Gupta network’s pillaging of the state, the judicial commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will have to zero in on one of the key issues: the president’s involvement.
Whatever legal gymnastics and phraseology the presidency resorts to, Zuma’s conduct will be the subject of scrutiny and he will most likely have to appear before the commission.
Zuma, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and Gupta defenders had wanted the scope of the inquiry broadened to examine the corrupting role of business historically. But the judgment of the North Gauteng High Court in December narrowed the parameters to the remedial action of Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report.
That report requires that Zuma’s role become central to the commission’s work.
The complaints on which Madonsela based her investigation stem from the revelations by former deputy minister of finance Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor that the Guptas had offered them Cabinet positions.
The Dominican Order of Catholic priests, the first complainant, also asked that Madonsela probe whether the Guptas knew that Des van Rooyen was to replace Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister beforehand.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane, the second complainant, asked more directly that Zuma’s role in the offers to Jonas and Mentor be investigated, as well as his conduct in relation to the Guptas’ offers of cabinet positions and appointments to SOE boards.
Madonsela dedicated an entire section of her report to the president’s conduct, setting out whether he was in violation of the Executive Ethics Code. While she could not pronounce decisively on Zuma’s actions, she made a number of telling observations.
“It is worrying that the Gupta family was aware or may have been aware that Minister Nene was removed 6 weeks after Deputy Minister Jonas advised him that he had been allegedly offered a job by the Gupta family in exchange for extending favours to their family business,” the report states.
“If the Gupta family knew about the intended appointment it would appear that information was shared then in violation of section 2.3(e) of the Executive Ethics Code which prohibits members of the executive from the use of information received in confidence in the course of their duties or otherwise than in connection with the discharge of their duties.”