Capture probe: Zondo's already popping Panados
The inquiry's date hasn't even been set but deputy chief justice is already dealing with numerous headaches
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is yet to announce the starting date of the state capture inquiry but he is already dealing with several headaches caused by the State Security Agency and the public protector.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has now asked that he expand the inquiry’s scope, while the SSA is dragging its feet with security clearances for the inquiry’s staff.
Zondo will on Friday brief the media on the starting date of the inquiry, whose terms of reference direct it to investigate specific allegations contained in former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s “State of Capture” report. Zondo says the terms of reference for his inquiry are “extensive”.
These include evaluating the truth of claims that the Gupta family attempted to bribe deputy Finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, and questions over the role allegedly played by the family in other government appointments. The inquiry is also mandated, among other things, to investigate whether government tenders and contracts were unlawfully awarded as part of the so-called “state capture” project.Further, the commission needs to probe whether any member of the executive “unlawfully or corruptly intervened in the matter of the closing of banking facilities of the Gupta family”.
But Mkhwebane’s office has now confirmed that she has referred a complaint made by five ANC MPs, regarding alleged corruption and collusion at national Treasury, the Reserve Bank and Public Investment Corporation, to the Zondo Inquiry.
“(The complaints) related to the alleged capture of the state by the bank, Treasury and SARS,” Mkhwebane’s spokesperson Oupa Segalwe said.
The inquiry’s spokesperson, Reverend Mbuyiselo Stemela, told Times Select that Zondo would address questions about the potential widening of the inquiry’s scope at Friday’s media briefing.
Zondo last week obtained an urgent court order that provisionally extended the timeframe for his inquiry from 180 days (six months) to two years.
In an affidavit filed at the Pretoria High Court, the deputy chief justice explained how multiple logistical, budgetary and security issues had delayed the inquiry from getting off the ground. Key among these was Zondo’s battle to secure R230-million from government for the first six months of the inquiry’s existence.
“The reason for this is that many engagements had to be held with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the national Treasury and, to a lesser extent, the State Security Agency in order to be able to explain to these institutions that the commission’s funding and procurement process could not simply follow the template of other commissions of inquiry,” he says in court papers.This, he argues, was because “given the subject matter of the commission, it was very important to be able to ensure the confidentiality of many of its operations so that the integrity of its information could not be compromised in any way”.
Zondo’s affidavit reveals that he is clearly concerned about the confidentiality of certain unidentified witnesses and the security clearance given to certain key inquiry staff.
“This process is managed by the State Security Agency. There have been delays in the completion of the process,” Zondo says in the affidavit.
“I am told this is because of staff changes in the State Security Agency as well as requirements of members of the investigation team, and possibly other members of the commission, to have top-secret clearance. There are still some security clearances that are outstanding from the State Security Agency.”
There’s no certainty over whether the R230-million cost, earmarked for the first six months of the inquiry, may increase over its new provisional two-year timeframe.
Zondo has himself raised questions about whether that two-year period will be enough to finalise his probe into, among other things, the alleged influence of the Gupta family on the appointment of ministers in former president Jacob Zuma’s cabinet.
“It is not easy to give an estimate that can never change in the future. This is because the commission is in the early stages of the investigations and, as investigators continue investigating, they may unearth evidence and other matters that could affect the assessment (of how long the inquiry will take to complete),” Zondo says in court documents.
He also pointed out that multiple other commissions, including the Farlam Inquiry into the Marikana massacre and Seriti Inquiry into the Arms Deal, had taken four years to complete.
Only the Heher Commission into the feasibility of free tertiary education had taken less than two years.