South African business and industry on Wednesday lauded the appointment of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to head the commission of inquiry into State capture.
This followed President Jacob Zuma's decision on Tuesday to appoint a commission of inquiry following an order issued by the North Gauteng High Court in its December 14 judgment.
The inquiry was first suggested by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela in 2016.
The court ordered that the remedial action of the Public Protector was binding and that the President was directed to appoint a commission of inquiry within 30 days, headed by a judge solely selected by the Chief Justice.
In his statement, Zuma noted that State capture was “of such serious public concern”, that any further delay would make the public “doubt government’s determination to dismantle all forms of corruption” and entrench the public perception that the State has been captured by private interests for nefarious and self-enrichment purposes.
Civil action watchdog the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said that, while it was heartened by the appointment of Zondo, it was perhaps a little too late.
“We do believe this decision by President Zuma has been unnecessarily delayed, as it comes some 14 months after the Public Protector tabled her State of Capture report,” said Outa COO Ben Theron.
Outa further criticised the President for “now welcoming the report as if he accepted [Madonsela’s] remedial action from the start”.
“Madonsela had to endure ridicule, hate speech and embarrassment in relation to her report,” the organisation added.
It further lambasted the President for having to be forced by court rulings “to do what the Constitution expects of him”.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Mines (CoM) said that the appointment of “such a senior judicial officer” was welcomed given the importance of the task ahead. “In her October 2016 report, Madonsela identified numerous mining-related issues. Further, poor governance has had a negative impact on investment, growth, jobs and the economy as a whole.
“While we lament the inordinate delay in the announcement by President Zuma of this appointment, we optimistically take the development as a signal of the beginnings of critical shifts in the quality of governance of South Africa,” said the CoM.
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) applauded Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for speedily appointing Zondo. CEO Bonang Mohale said it was, however, “disturbing” that the President had elected to appoint the commission without withdrawing his “reckless and ill-advised” appeal against both the Public Protector’s remedial action and the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling.
“The continued appeal opens the Commission to further costly, avoidable and protracted litigation. We are relieved that the latest court ruling by Judge President Dunston Mlambo finally ordered the President to pay the cost of litigation from his own pocket.
“We also strongly condemn the move by the President to seek to rewrite, through stealth, the terms of reference of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry. Both the Public Protector and the North Gauteng High Court made it clear that the former Public Protector’s State of Capture report had to form the basis of the inquiry. We deem the President’s remarks, intimating that Justice Zondo should broaden the scope of the inquiry, as an inappropriate attempt to redefine the terms of reference of the investigation.”
BLSA also questioned the timing of the President’s decision, noting that it had been carried out just weeks after the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) fifty-fourth National Conference and a day before the first meeting of the new ANC National Executive Committee.
“The announcement appears like a cynical ploy to manage intra-ANC dynamics instead of advancing what’s in the best interest of the country. Putting the party’s interests ahead of the country’s interests has been the hallmark of this President’s tenure,” the organisation pointed out.
The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry also added its voice to the praise chorale, noting that the inquiry should be “unhindered and ventilate all issues and allegations of State capture that have occupied the minds of South Africans”.
It emphasised that the “necessary corrective action and remedies” needed to be clearly defined.
Also weighing in on the matter, civil rights organisation AfriForum said the President’s statement was “admission that the State machine is failing”.
Reiterating BLSA’s view, AfriForum pointed out that Zuma was “making the mandate [for the inquiry] wide”.
In his statement, Zuma pointed out that “the commission must seek to uncover not just the conduct of some, but all of those who may have rendered the State or parts thereof vulnerable to control by forces other than the public for which government is elected”. He added that no culprit or area of corruption should be spared by the commission.
AfriForum anti-corruption unit head Monique Taute noted that, if other State policing entities, the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had carried out their obligations, “it would not have been necessary for the commission to make its mandate so wide”.