Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo updated the media on the work of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture on Wednesday (June 30).
Zondo began his briefing by conveying the commission’s appreciation of the enormous contribution made by investigative journalists in South Africa by informing the public of matters they should be aware of.
He said journalists played an important role in the events that led to the creation of the commission.
Zondo said he has been hearing evidence since August 2018, and that it is clear to him that if it was not for the investigative journalists, the commission would not have known of certain events – “ugly things” – that had occurred.
Zondo would not like journalists to have the impression that because the commission has not always been available that it does not appreciate the very important role they play.
“We salute you for your contribution. This commission has benefitted enormously from the investigative journalism that we have in this country, and we thank you for your support.”
Completing the commission’s hearings
Zondo referred to the commission’s previous request for an extension to the end of March, on the understanding that it had hoped to complete oral evidence by then and would prepare the report in the period April to June.
However, in March the commission found that there was still important evidence that it had not yet heard, and which it had to hear.
The commission now expects to complete most of the oral evidence by the end of June, except for five or six witnesses who will be heard in July. On that basis, the commission applied for an extension and the high court granted the extension last Monday.
Zondo pointed out that the day (Wednesday, June 30) marked an important milestone in the work of the commission: “For all intents and purposes we have covered all of the oral evidence that we had identified as important.”
He noted that President Cyril Ramaphosa must still come and give evidence before the commission.
The president’s evidence will cover whatever is outstanding from his previous testimonies in his capacity as ANC president and as president (and formerly deputy president) of the country.
“Save for that we will be busy with the preparation of the report.”
Zondo mentioned that work in regard to summary and analysis of the evidence before the commission “has been going on for quite some time … but we will work hard to try and make sure that the report is completed in the time available”.
Zondo marvelled that he has sat for 418 hearing days, that transcripts amounting to more than 71 000 pages have been prepared, and that the evidence of more than 300 witnesses has been heard.
“The commission has collected a lot of evidence,” he said.
Constitutional Court judgment on Zuma
Zondo declared that the commission welcomes the Constitutional Court judgment declaring former president Jacob Zuma to be in contempt of court, saying that it is of “great importance in our constitutional democracy”.
“It vindicates the rule of law, the supremacy of our constitution, it reaffirms the principle that we are all equal before the law, and it underlines the importance of accountability in our constitutional democracy.”
“We have seen once again the judiciary stepping forward and doing what the constitution expects it to do in our country.”
Zondo reflected that one would have wished that it would never have been necessary to reach this point. However, the commission was tasked with investigating allegations of state capture and corruption and fraud in the public sector.
Zondo noted that the commission has evidence that certain people, including Zuma, may have been involved in certain matters that fall within the terms of reference of the commission, and that it was the duty of the commission to insist that Zuma should appear before the commission and testify.
Zondo lamented: “The commission did not just rush to issue a summons against Zuma, the commission did not just rush to court, the commission did what it had to do when it had become quite clear that Zuma was not prepared to cooperate with the commission.”
Zondo asserted that:
- The commission had filed papers to the Constitutional Court which made it clear that the fact that Zuma had filed a mere review application was not enough to justify that he should not appear before the commission and that he would be compelled to appear.
- Zuma knew that the mere fact of filing a review was not a valid reason to not appear before the commission, and that he would have to put his case before the Constitutional Court.
- Zuma chose not to put his case before the Constitutional Court and the Constitutional Court in January 2021 made the decision to compel him to appear.
- The commission has done what was expected of it in terms of the constitution and the law, and that the judgment handed down on Tuesday (June 29) marked the end of the Constitutional Court’s role as Zuma cannot appeal the matter.
Zondo concluded his briefing by saying that Zuma took the view that he would not participate in the commission, and would not appear. Zuma has said the commission can reach whatever conclusions it wishes to draw.