Zondo asks for another three months to finish state capture work
The state capture commission has filed its urgent application to extend its tenure until the end of June, saying the Covid-19 lockdown meant a three-month delay that the commission could not have anticipated.
In an affidavit, the commission chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, said even though the last extension was ordered by the court to be “final”, this should not tie the hands of the court now. This was because factors had arisen that “were outside the control of the commission and could not have been anticipated at the time”.
Zondo said the lockdown — announced in March last year a few weeks after the court’s order granting a “final” extension in February — meant the commission was not by law allowed to hold public hearings in April and May and spent June making logistical arrangements for how public hearings could resume.
“There was also a disruptive impact on some of the work of the investigation team: for example, investigators were not generally able to travel across provincial borders to seek out and consult potential witnesses,” said Zondo.
He said the commission had taken a number of steps to try to make up the time — including evening sessions — but had not managed to do so.
Zondo also explained why the commission’s application — announced in December — was only filed this week, putting this down to his heavy workload and 10 days of Covid-19 isolation in January.
He said the commission was almost done with hearing oral evidence and was hoping to use most of the extension period, if granted, for writing the report. He said it was in the public interest to grant the extension because it was not granted “the commission will be denied the opportunity to prepare its report” for the president.
“It would be untenable for the commission to have been allowed to hear all the evidence it has heard since 2018 and deny it the opportunity to prepare and submit a report to the president. This would, I believe, clearly not be in the public interest,” said Zondo.
In his affidavit, he gave the court an update on the commission’s various workstreams:
- Eskom — the commission was left with “more or less” seven witnesses.
- Transnet — the commission was left with “about five” witnesses.
- SABC — oral evidence relating to the SABC has been completed — “except for one or two witnesses that may have to be called”.
- Denel — the commission has heard all oral evidence, except for one witness who has already begun giving evidence but must complete it.
- SAA — the commission has heard all the oral evidence.
- The New Age (TNA) — the oral evidence has been completed.
- SAAT — all oral evidence has been heard “except for one or two witnesses who still need to complete their evidence or to give their evidence.”
- Alleged offer to Vytjie Mentor — All evidence has been heard but “there might be just one witness who may be called. If called, this witness would be very brief”.
- Alleged offer and bribe to Mcebisi Jonas — all oral evidence has been heard.
- The transfer of Themba Maseko from the position of GCIS CEO to that of director-general: department of public service & administration — all oral evidence has been heard “including the evidence of Mr Jacob Zuma”.
- Estina — The commission has heard all evidence “it had identified as important”, except for one or two witnesses whom the commission may still call.
- The Free State asbestos project — all oral evidence “identified as important” has been heard. There might be one witness that the commission may still call.
- The Free State R1bn housing project — “one or maybe two” witnesses who have not been called may still be called to give oral evidence.
- The dismissal of Nhlanhla Nene as minister of finance and his replacement by Des van Rooyen — the commission has heard “most” of the evidence it needed to hear, said Zondo. “However, it must still hear Mr Jacob Zuma’s evidence.”
- The appointment of Des van Rooyen as minister of finance as well as the appointment of his adviser and his chief of staff — on this, the commission still needed to hear the evidence of three or four witnesses, including that of Jacob Zuma, said Zondo.
- Pravin Gordhan’s replacement of Des van Rooyen as minister of finance in December 2015 and his dismissal and replacement by Malusi Gigaba in March 2017 — the commission had heard most of the evidence on this “but has not yet heard the evidence of Mr Jacob Zuma and two or three other witnesses”.
- Prasa — there are “five or so witnesses” whose evidence the commission should hear on Prasa, said Zondo.
- Bosasa — the commission had heard “extensive” evidence on Bosasa, said Zondo. “Nevertheless, there may be about five or so witnesses whose evidence may still need to be heard,” he said.
- State Security Agency — this would be heard in the last week of January.
- Parliamentary oversight — this would be heard in the first week of February and about two or so days later in March.
- Gupta contracts — Zondo said there was a workstream of the commission which is referred to as the Gupta contracts, which seeks to “deal with as many contracts the Guptas or their companies or associates had with the organs of state throughout the country”. The plan was that the workstream would do without oral evidence at all or very limited oral evidence. “However, the commission will have certainty in the next few weeks.”