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ZONDO COMMISSION

After months of tension, Department of Justice puts up R6m for legal reviews of the State Capture Report

After months of tension, Department of Justice puts up R6m for legal reviews of the State Capture Report
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

Short-term kitty comes on the back of tension between the DoJ and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo over budget and the appointment of lawyers who have been handling reviews of the State Capture report at no fee thus far.

The Department of Justice has freed up R6-million for the next six months up to the end of March 2024 to provide for the legal bills of private attorneys currently working on several high court reviews of the State Capture Commission’s final report. 

Although the fine print is yet to be thrashed out, the DoJ’s pledge seems aimed at settling months of tension between senior justice officials and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, the former chairperson of the Commission.

Justice Zondo roped in a small group of private lawyers to help push work on some of the court cases late last year after it emerged that the State Attorney’s handling thereof was not up to scratch.

Those lawyers agreed to do so with no immediate clarity regarding contracts or pay pending the outcome of Zondo’s discussions with the department. But Zondo then found himself battling justice officials for months in his efforts to negotiate for the department to formally appoint those attorneys or to provide a private legal team for the reviews and or budget to cover this. 

Daily Maverick first revealed tension over the battle plan for the high court reviews in February 2023 and Zondo has since revealed his concern and frustration over the DoJ’s handling of the issue in public.

It has now been established that the justice department DG, Doc Mashabane, has provided written confirmation of the allocation of funds to pay the private lawyers. This flows from a meeting between Zondo, Solicitor General Fhedzisani Pandelani and Justice Minister Ronald Lamola several weeks ago.

However, an initial concern appears to be that the money is not intended to cover retrospective claims, but only legal bills arising after August 2023.

Given that some of the private lawyers brought in by Justice Zondo have been working for at least a year, there is concern about why the conditional allocation makes no provision for work done prior to that.

Furthermore, the R6-million figure on offer might also be insufficient given the general cost of litigation and South Africa’s now all-too-familiar system of Stalingrad-style court battles that can run for extended periods.

Challenges

The State Capture Report is being challenged by among others, former spy boss Arthur Fraser, former Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko, Gupta enterprise kingpin Salim Essa and Cabinet minister Gwede Mantashe.

It is understood that the cost of counsel briefed in the reviews is covered by a different budget. Senior advocates Paul Pretorius and Pule Seleka are among a group of evidence leaders from the State Capture Commission briefed on specific review applications.

Daily Maverick interviews with several individuals familiar with the issue suggest the parties are on the same page about defending the report, but are clearly not aligned on the how-to. 

Zondo, in anticipation of mighty fights as some of the reviews are politically charged, wants a capable and focused legal team onside.

He is also cited as a respondent in his capacity as the former chair of the commission.

Conducted at a cost of more than R1-billion, the State Capture Commission produced a final report comprising various volumes.

The DoJ, as custodian of the Commissions Act, is duty-bound to defend the report but is seemingly rigidly budget conscious, if not somewhat territorial.

It initially maintained that leaving the reviews with the State Attorney was the most cost-effective option as financial resources could then be freed for senior advocates briefed in those matters. 

However, Zondo’s concern about the State Attorney’s capacity is not without merit.

He previously told Daily Maverick that he did initially ask the State Attorney to defend the reviews. However, it was later discovered that the State Attorney had not carried out some of the instructions.

His personal inquiries in August 2022 revealed the State Attorney’s Johannesburg office did not have the capacity to deal even with its own caseload – with individuals handling roughly 1,000 files each.

Daily Maverick recently revealed how it had taken the State Attorney more than five years to collect on a writ of execution to recover a R200,000 cost order from former SAA chair Dudu Myeni. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    This sends a clear message that the DOJ is not interested in digging into the ANC sins. They are telling Zondo and the private lawyers” it’s your problem. ”
    And that list of opponents of the commission report.. well it’s a pointer to the enemies of a decent future for this country

  • Alley Cat says:

    This is so critical for our democracy. How is it that we can spend R1Bn on the state capture enquiry but only allocate R6Mn for follow up. Another tactic by the crooked ANC to avoid consequences from the state capture enquiry?? I smell a rat!

  • Scott Gordon says:

    Hmm and when is JZ going to pay his legal bill ?

  • Vincent Britz says:

    The ANC gangster tactics coming into play in plane sight! Anyone still voting for this corrupt gangster organization is as corrupt as them or just plain stupid!!! Nothing will ever change understand the ANC!!! They only destroying this country to fill there own pockets!!!!

  • Koggel Mander says:

    Stop throwing good money after bad. The ANC has no intention of reacting to the Zondo report, ever.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      Couldn’t agree more. It was just one of the many circuses that have formed part of the ANC’s bread and circus schtick. I expect to die of disinterest before any one of the army of high ranking ANC miscreants fingered in the report spends so much as a day in prison.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    DA is the way.

    More and more I feel the above is the only comment worth making to every single one of these depressing articles.

  • Nothing new here. Please put up your hand if you expected anything different…….
    The ship is taking on water at an alarming rate, and they are trying to plug holes with plasters, promising the world, but losing all credibility.
    We have our esteemed Cele calling numbers as if he was at a bingo hall. What do those numbers mean? Jail, hearings, instant bail to fill the coffers, what?
    Openly threatening a worker from the ABC, what are we going to see next?
    The saddest thing of all is that there are honest capable people out there who could have kept the country operating at peak, if only the the chosen hadn’t been so set on self aggrandisement, it’s never been about the people my brothers and sisters, but the illusion of wielding power to the detriment of everything else. People like the Guptas were waiting in the wings to flatter and advise, and walk away having won the biggest lottery ever.
    Still, not one government soul has learned anything from that experience.
    Shame on US for that.

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