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Rules committee to decide what’s next for State Capture executive implementation plan, due Saturday

Rules committee to decide what’s next for State Capture executive implementation plan, due Saturday
President Cyril Ramaphosa receives the fifth and final State Capture Report at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 22 June 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

When the national legislature on Saturday gets government’s plan on implementing State Capture commission recommendations, it closes the chapter of this wide-ranging scrutiny of how private interests perverted the public good and decision-making. Now the focus firmly moves to government, and Parliament.

The implementation plan President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to submit to Parliament on Saturday, 22 October 2022 was described as a “live document” just days earlier, signalling how meeting the deadline was cut fine.

But it’s been a whole-of-government approach, as the officialese goes, with departments, State-owned entities (SOEs) and other public entities submitting their actions, already under way and future-focused, to the Department of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) situated within the Presidency. 

Or as Eskom group executive for legal and compliance Mel Govender told MPs on Wednesday, “The State Capture implementation plan is a live document. The next report is due tomorrow (Thursday) to DPME (which) collates all inputs…”

It also emerged that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) did its bit, when its boss Andy Mothibe told MPs the unit, like other state agencies, had forwarded its “action plans”.

Prosecutions

With the Ramaphosa administration’s glass-half-full optics, it’s expected the State Capture commission implementation plan will highlight progress and achievements like the nine so-called seminal cases the prosecution services have brought to court, as promised, by the end of September

It’s likely also ticked off as done, and in progress would be other prosecutions in matters under scrutiny at the State Capture commission — from the Free State asbestos scandal, the Vrede Dairy farm matter and others.

Read more in Daily Maverick here: ‘We’ve got this,’ says NPA as 14 October deadline looms for Transnet indictment”, here: No subpoenas or hardball tactics yet, but the State Capture docket is growing — and it is damningand here: NPA claims legal victory with R1.6bn restraint order against Gupta-linked Regiments Capital.

And while the government may not necessarily pursue establishing a separate national anti-corruption entity as the State Capture commission recommends, Ramaphosa in late August appointed a national anti-corruption advisory council, including representatives of business and civil society to “work alongside government to prevent and stamp out wrongdoing”, according to the official statement.

That is set to feature, but potentially also the national anti-corruption strategy that was finally published earlier in 2022, also a key point in efforts to try to stave off greylisting by the global anti-money laundering and terrorist financing body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). 

More emerges from the over 300 recommendations the State Capture commission proposes across the length and breadth of South Africa’s public life — from a different selection process for SOE boards to ensure independence and integrity, the reorganisation and refocusing of state intelligence services to ensure greater transparency, and amending the electoral system because MPs accountable and beholden to party bosses “is not well suited to parliamentary oversight”.

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But as always, the devil is in the detail, like the tricky bits around the governing ANC’s cadre deployment. The argument is, nothing’s wrong in principle with this, even if perhaps in practice a mistake may happen — in as much as it relates to public entities and departments.

Saturday marks four months since commission chairperson, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on 22 June handed over the six-volume State Capture report to Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings, and ends the court-determined period for Parliament to receive the government’s implementation plan. 

That this is done, effectively by correspondence to National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula as things stood late on Thursday, ticks the box of technicist compliance.

Nothing except perhaps a presidential diary chock-a-block with state visits and launches prevented Ramaphosa from making a statement in the House, or calling a joint sitting. 

Three times the president has called such special joint sittings of both Houses of Parliament — in September 2019 on gender-based violence, in October 2020 on South Africa’s economic reconstruction and recovery plan and on the devastating KwaZulu-Natal floods in April 2022.

Governance by launches, site visits and speeches not enough when details and corruption-free implementation are MIA

At the 22 June commission report handover, Ramaphosa described the commission’s work as “vital” to South Africa’s efforts to deal with State Capture, with a national “debt of gratitude” due not only to Zondo, but the commission as a whole, those who volunteered to testify and the whistle-blowers.

“The report is far more than a record of widespread corruption, fraud and abuse. It is also an instrument through which the country can work to ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again.”

At Monday’s Union Buildings media briefing, presidential spokesperson Vincent Magwenya confirmed the State Capture commission recommendation plan would be submitted to Parliament on 22 October. “Should the President see the need to do more… we will announce this in due course.”

On Wednesday, Parliament indicated a public statement would be issued after receipt of the plan from the President.

At Thursday’s National Assembly programming committee, it emerged that the State Capture commission recommendation implementation report, once received, would be referred to the rules committee. Then the next steps would unfold.

“We will be advised by the Presidency how the report is presented to Parliament,” said Secretary to the National Assembly, Masibulele Xaso, in response to Mapisa-Nqakula. “Once it is here, the rules committee will meet (to decide) how to handle the report… We will communicate a date for the rules committee.”

That this was discussed at all in Thursday’s programming committee was due to DA Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube, who raised questions over the President’s submission of the implementation over a weekend.

“Parliament is still none the wiser… Considering the importance of this plan with its potentially far-reaching consequences for the institution, it would seem appropriate that this deadline isn’t allowed to simply come and go. Parliament, specifically the Speaker, ought to be more proactive,” Gwarube told Daily Maverick.

Also unclear at this stage is the progress by the same rules committee over the past four months or so as it was seized with processing the actual State Capture commission reports as these relate to Parliament.

Oversight failures

That included not only the scathing comments on Parliament’s qualitative oversight failures, but also recommendations like having more opposition MPs chair committees — presently the governing ANC holds all but the public accounts committee chairpersonships — establishing an oversight committee for the Presidency and looking at electoral system changes, including potentially directly electing the President.

Still before the parliamentary joint ethics committee is the prickly issue of what to do with MPs named in the State Capture commission report,  including transport committee chairperson Mosebenzi Zwane, who remains in his post despite his September arrest and court appearance over the Vrede Dairy corruption saga. A legal opinion to Mapisa-Nqakula shows Parliament could take steps only against those who were MPs at the time of the State Capture claims, and had remained on the parliamentary benches.

But the thing about commissions of inquiry is that their recommendations are not binding, even if the requirement of an implementation plan is a fresh take.

Sometimes commissions are ignored, or sharply criticised like the Seriti commission whose findings of no corruption in the 1999 Arms Deal were set aside in 2019.

Sometimes commissions of inquiry have great impact, like the Nugent commission whose findings are assisting the post-State Capture rebuilding of the South African Revenue Service. Or the Cameron commission, which in 1995 led to the establishment, initially in the interim, of the weapons exports control entity the National Conventional Arms Control Committee that publicly reports to Parliament.

Where the Zondo State Capture commission of inquiry falls depends on the government’s implementation plan — and what unfolds in Parliament. And which way this goes, is an important signal of the state of South Africa’s constitutional democracy. DM

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