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Parliament is incapable of preventing another State Capture bid, says Chief Justice Zondo

Parliament is incapable of preventing another State Capture bid, says Chief Justice Zondo
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Photo: Gallo Images / Veli Nhlapo)

Zondo proposed three solutions – electoral reform, an active citizenry and the establishment of a permanent anti-State Capture and anti-corruption commission that would operate in the same manner as the commission he chaired.

A year after submitting the State Capture Commission’s final report, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo says nothing has changed and he fears Parliament is incapable of preventing another bid to capture the state.

In a parliamentary oversight hearing in 2021, Zondo pointed out that had Parliament acted earlier, the damage of State Capture may have been reduced and billions in looted funds could have been saved.

Speaking at a democracy colloquium organised by the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria on Thursday, he sang the same tune.

The majority party’s failures

Zondo said that during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure, Parliament failed to take steps to ensure that State Capture was exposed and stopped. He put the blame squarely on the ANC, which has more than 50% of the seats in Parliament.

“The reason why it failed is well known. It is because the majority party refused to agree to the establishment of an inquiry to investigate the allegations,” Zondo said on Thursday, exactly a year after he handed over the State Capture Commission’s final report to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“There were a number of instances where there was an opportunity for the majority party in Parliament to agree, but it did not and therefore the Guptas continued with their project and the transactions that happened afterwards happened because they were not stopped by Parliament when it could have stopped them.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Here you go: The final State Capture report recommendations – at last

In October 2022, Ramaphosa submitted to Parliament the government’s plan for implementing the commission’s recommendations. However, little or nothing has been done and Zondo went as far as saying he did not think current MPs would be able to halt attempts to capture the state.

He said State Capture “unequivocally” placed the country’s democracy at risk.

“If another group of people were to do exactly what the Guptas did to pursue State Capture, Parliament would still not be able to stop it and that is simply because I have seen nothing that has changed,” said the Chief Justice.

‘Public attack’ 

Parliament has since come out with guns blazing against what it described as a public attack on the institution. Spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said Zondo’s criticism was unfortunate, lacked merit and undermined the principle 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 cooperation.”

Mothapo said had Zondo reached out to Parliament with his concerns, he would have been comprehensively appraised of all the ongoing work aimed at holding the executive to account based on the outcomes of the commission.

“To improve accountability, Parliament is currently developing rules and guidelines to enhance its oversight processes. Cooperation between Parliament and the Executive is also being fostered to facilitate executive attendance without the need for additional legislation or rules.

“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. 

“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.

“These decisive steps taken by Parliament demonstrate its dedication to implement the recommendations of the State Capture Commission,” Mothapo said.

“It is inappropriate for the Chief Justice, representing one of the arms of state, to engage in public attacks on Parliament,” he said.

‘Who will protect the people?’

Zondo said further, “The question that arises then is, if Parliament won’t be able to protect the interests of the people, if there are attempts for another State Capture, who will protect the people?”

He said Zuma was “captured”.

“Where a president no longer makes decisions that serve the interests of the people, but makes decisions that serve his own interests or his family or friends, that undermines our democracy,” said Zondo.

“What demonstrates beyond any doubt that State Capture places our democracy at risk is when one deals with the role of the National Assembly. Section 42(3) [of the Constitution] provides that the National Assembly is elected to represent the people. So when the National Assembly fails to protect the people against State Capture, it fails in this duty.”

A permanent corruption commission

Zondo proposed three solutions – electoral reform, an active citizenry and the establishment of a permanent anti-State Capture and anti-corruption commission that would operate in the same manner as the commission he chaired.

Such a commission, if established, would allow for officials, including the President, to be held publicly accountable with no room to hide things “under the carpet”. Zondo said this would contribute to public opinion and possibly compel Parliament to act.

“[The commission] can call anybody, whether it’s the President or MPs or any minister, to come to answer and give evidence where there are allegations of corruption and State Capture,” said Zondo.

“So that even if the majority in Parliament does not want questions asked or protects ministers and the President from questions, that commission would be an opportunity for everything to be explored and the evidence and answers to be given in the open.”

Regarding electoral reform, Zondo favoured a system that would allow people to have more power over their MPs, making them accountable to their constituency and not their political parties. The ANC has always been against such suggestions.

In 2021, while giving testimony before the Zondo Commission, Ramaphosa said: “Our political system granted by the Constitution is that of a party system… That is our system. They [MPs] don’t go represent themselves and their jacket.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: MPs approve electoral legislation for 2024 independents despite misgivings, and IEC needs a new commissioner

On active citizenry, Zondo said he feared that citizens remained vulnerable to the impact of corruption despite the work done by the commission, but he urged South Africans to take conscious decisions when they elect leaders. 

“I believe that the people of South Africa are the ones who must take their destiny in their own hands. They are the ones who must say, ‘We have had State Capture but it is not going to happen again.’ They must be the ones who say, ‘Never, never and never again.’ ” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David Amato says:

    Judicial capture enabled state capture.

    • Bick Nee says:

      Really? Where or how do you think the judiciary was captured?

    • David Farrell says:

      Sorry you have the wrong end of the stick, JSC capture has reduced the effectiveness of the judiciary, state capture was driven by one individual who was leader of the executive, parliament who is supposed to represent South Africa actually only has the interest of the anc political party at heart, everything the majority does is aimed at protecting or benefitting the party.

    • Bradley Welcome says:

      Cart before the horse.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    If only stalwarts like Zondo, Madonsela and countless other decent, honest and moral citizens etc. etc. would come to the fore and be active in running this country instead of these thieves, charlatans, criminals and predators masquerading as government. There is so much good and talent in this country that the huge potential that it has would come to fruition. As noted, the spokesman for Parliament, Mothapo, in typical anc cadre stupidity and denialism, as we have come to expect from these morons, has come out with guns blazing. Mothapo, you may be able to fool your obnoxious party into believing the nonsense that you utter, but the rest of us don’t. Actions speak louder than hot air and your atrocious record to date of turning a blind eye, closing ranks, aiding and abetting corruption and malfeasance with total impunity, is rotten to the core. I have absolutely no doubt that Zondo knows what he is talking about and believe him. As for you, the less said is better.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    Nothing is going to change until we reverse the first early steps of state capture, which were about crippling law enforcement:
    – The disbanding of the Scorpions,
    – the infiltration of the NPA,
    – the deployment of compromised individuals into law enforcement agencies like SAPS Crime Intelligence, and
    -the repurposing of the state security machinery.
    These observations were inadequately pointed out by the Zondo Commission in my opinion.
    Either way, I don’t understand why CJ Zondo isn’t calling for the establishment of an independent anti corruption body as ordered by the Concourt in the Glenister litigation, or how the government has been able to ignore this binding court order for a whole decade.

  • Philip Conradie says:

    The ANC is always “studying,examining,drafting,in the process”. Very little by way of “have instituted,have implemented,have completed”.
    Busywork, very little achievement.

    • Alley Cat says:

      EXACTLY… “To improve accountability, Parliament is currently developing rules and guidelines to enhance its oversight processes.” And this one year down the line… Maybe it will be complete by the time of the second coming?

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    It isn’t the Guptas that captured the State, it’s the ANC. Blaming outsiders is simply a smokescreen for the fact that the State is still captured, and has in fact never been “uncaptured”. The incumbent might not be the leader of it, like Zuma was, but in the 9 Zuma years ANC cadres and their private enterprise comrades have substantially taken over almost every single body that can be looted or stop the looting, and in truth, the President is not required any longer. The mouth speaks but the hands don’t listen.

  • Blingtofling HD says:

    A breath of authorative fresh air. Does he have protection? The ANC works in strange ways when it comes to protecting their piggie banks and position of power. Please stay safe Judge Zondo. SA stands a fighting chance if your reforms are put in place. I hope ALL our citizens hear your voice of rational reforms and the new narative and slogan is ‘we will never, never, never let that happen again’

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    The only way to solve this problem,in my opinion, is for the next government to be a coalition between the ANC and the DA with joint and equal representation in Parliament. This way the DA can take the blame for the changes and culling and find ways to get things done.
    The first thing to go should be BRICS membership and the next should be the racist and prohibitive BEE policies that hold us back from reaching our full economic potential.
    In this way, the Judiciary can get on with their jobs and the Security Services will be cleaned out to do what they should be doing – apprehending the law breakers, thieves and gangs.
    What a wonderful country this could be if the strengths and innovations of all our people could be harnessed and implemented rather than the desultory lack of interest and helplessness felt by most South Africans under the current administration.

  • Brian H says:

    With all due respect to you Chief Justice, I don’t think the ANC has even read the report, let alone made any changes. They will continue to steal, as they have always done. Stealing seems to be their on purpose and the NHI honey pot will be their next target.

  • shannon Maxwell says:

    Justice Raymond Zondo, it is another economic tragedy that all the money spent on the Zondo Commission, was yet another waste of public funds, as the ANC did not like the outcome or recommendations and will do nothing to implement your findings. Please do not accept a cup of coffee from anyone other than someone you trust.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    What a surprise. “Parliament says” – was the news report on Zondo’s remarks. As parliament burned down some years ago, does this rank as a voice from the dead? I’m sure we’re all encouraged, even grateful, to hear that instead of making the necessary changes, such as dismissing those implicated in corruption, ‘parliament’ is travelling overseas to find best practice. With tears in my eyes! Seriously? Thank you Chief Justice – your country needs you.

  • Hulme Scholes says:

    “These decisive steps taken by Parliament demonstrate its dedication to implement the recommendations of the State Capture Commission,” Mothapo said.

    Like the moon is made of cheese. The ANC will do nothing about the State Capture report because it is an insatiable stealing machine. Well said Justice Zondo, we wish there were more of you.

  • 1957.tonycole says:

    Zondo is spot on. The ANC leadership responded like scalded cats. Lots of posturing and threats. Its time these people were removed from Parliament. Their disciplinary committee is pathetic. Their behaviour over PalaPala comfirms they are a bought constituency

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