Zondo's criticism unfortunate, lacks merit: parliament's spokesperson

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
Chief justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday reflected on the commission of inquiry and proposed solutions to ensure state capture does not happen again.
Chief justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday reflected on the commission of inquiry and proposed solutions to ensure state capture does not happen again.
Image: Screenshot

Parliament has expressed shock and a strong objection to chief justice Raymond Zondo’s remarks that the institution would fail to prevent and end state capture if another group of people tried to capture the state.

Zondo said he has not seen any change in parliament indicating that the institution would be able to identify and stop attempts to recapture the state.

Parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said it was inappropriate for the chief justice, representing one of the arms of the state, to engage in public attacks on the legislature.

“We note that the attacks are also directed at the executive in so far as the current policy position of the electoral system is concerned. This is in the wake of a matter that is before the court on the electoral system,” he said.

Mothapo said parliament believed that using the established channels to address any concerns Zondo may have regarding parliament's implementation of the recommendations of the inquiry into allegations of state capture, which Zondo chaired, would have been more appropriate.

“It is not the place of a chief justice to make such public remarks unless and until he is required to adjudicate on a matter with impartiality.

“The principle of separation of powers is fundamental to our democracy, and it requires each branch of government to respect the roles and responsibilities of the others. Chief justice Zondo's public attack on parliament encroaches on this doctrine,” said Mothapo.

He said it was crucial to provide parliament with the necessary space to fulfil its obligations, which it is implementing, guided by the recommendations of the commission.

“We want to emphasise that parliament, through the diligent efforts of the programming and rules committees, has taken decisive steps to address the recommendations of the state capture commission.”

To improve accountability, parliament is developing rules and guidelines to enhance its oversight processes. Co-operation between parliament and the executive is also being fostered to facilitate executive attendance without the need for additional legislation or rules, he said.

“Furthermore, to strengthen oversight over the Presidency, parliament is further actively conducting research to explore international best practices. This work is vital in laying a solid foundation for enhanced oversight and accountability in relation to the Presidency, he said.

Mothapo said several other initiatives are being either explored or implemented to hold the executive accountable, based on the outcomes of the Zondo commission.

The rules committee has decided that quarterly reports on the progress of these initiatives must be tabled.

He said these “decisive steps” taken by parliament demonstrate its dedication to implement the recommendations of the commission.

“Had the chief justice reached out to parliament with his concerns, he would have been comprehensively apprised of all the ongoing work.

“The criticism made against parliament is therefore unfortunate, lacks merit and undermines the principles of separation of powers. As the head of the judiciary, it is essential for the chief justice to foster an environment of mutual respect and co-operation,” said Mothapo.

TimesLIVE reported earlier on Thursday that Zondo blamed the National Assembly for failing to prevent and end state capture as the ANC was against investigating the allegations of capture and the Gupta family.

“If another group of people were to do what the Guptas did to pursue state capture ... parliament would still not be able to stop it. That is because I have seen nothing has changed,” said Zondo.

“The constitution provides that the National Assembly is elected to represent the people. When the National Assembly fails to protect the people against state capture, it fails in this duty. When you represent someone in a forum, you are meant to protect that person's interests — and if you fail to do that, you fail in your duty.”

Zondo was speaking at a colloquium hosted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), a year after he handed the state capture report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.