South Africa


‘Levels of corruption have reached completely unacceptable proportions,’ says Chief Justice Zondo

‘Levels of corruption have reached completely unacceptable proportions,’ says Chief Justice Zondo
Illustrative image, from left: President Cyril Ramaphosa (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius) | Chief Justice Raymond Zondo (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti) | National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council chair Firoz Cachalia (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

While President Cyril Ramaphosa told a dialogue on building a corruption-free SA that the fight against corruption “is gaining momentum’, this sentiment was not shared by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

The work done by the State Capture Commission, chaired by now Chief Justice Raymond Zondo at a cost of just over R1-billion, has been lauded internationally as extraordinary, despite the snail’s pace in implementing key findings at home.  

Professor Christopher Stone, from Oxford University’s School of Government in the UK, said although graft was prevalent in governments worldwide, the commission’s  5,500-page report had done an exceptional job in highlighting corrupt acts and had had a global impact.

“There’s a degree of public accountability that the commission has achieved in its observations and recommendations… The Chief Justice went out of his way to highlight not just the corrupt acts,  but people who stood up to corruption,” Stone said.

He was speaking at the two-day National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council’s (Nacac’s) dialogue in Boksburg this week on building a corruption-free South Africa. 

The council, chaired by Firoz Cachalia, was established by President Cyril Ramaphosa in August 2022 to advise on SA’s anti-corruption institutional architecture, among other functions.

‘Long road ahead’

Speaking at the event, Ramaphosa said that after 1994, there were hopes that democratic SA would herald a “new era of integrity, honesty and ethical conduct by all in positions of responsibility”, but this had not been the case.

“Corruption has wounded our democracy and shaken people’s faith in our institutions. If corruption is not arrested, the greatest damage will not be in the funds stolen, the jobs lost or the services not delivered. The greatest damage will be to the belief in democracy itself.

“Our Constitution, which embeds the values of social justice, human dignity, accountability, transparency and the rule of law, is the most powerful instrument we have to fight crime and corruption,” Ramaphosa said.

The completion of the work of the State Capture Commission and subsequent voluminous report, which laid bare the extent of State Capture, was a watershed moment in the country’s history, the President said. 

The report went beyond identifying the extent and depth of this criminality, but also presented means to remedy the harm and created the conditions that would prevent its recurrence, he said.  

Last month, Zondo decried the slow pace of the government in the establishment of new institutions to safeguard the state against capture 16 months after he handed in the final instalment of the report.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zondo concerned by no sign of public procurement anti-corruption agency 16 months after State Capture report

He highlighted several areas of concern, including the need for protection of whistle-blowers, the establishment of a portfolio committee in the Presidency and the establishment of an independent, public procurement anti-corruption agency.   

Ramaphosa said in his address that these recommendations and other proposals to safeguard the state against capture were being explored through intensive research processes and consultations by Nacac and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 

Speaking about strides made in State Capture-related crimes, Ramaphosa listed several successes, which Daily Maverick has been unable to confirm at the time of publishing, including:

  • Nine separate court cases, involving 47 individuals and 21 companies, have been brought to court.
  • Freezing orders amounting to R14-billion have been authorised by the Asset Forfeiture Unit and a total of R5.4-billion has been recovered and returned to the state.
  • The South African Revenue Service has collected R4.9-billion in unpaid taxes as a result of evidence brought before the State Capture Commission.

“While there is a long road ahead, the fight against corruption is gaining momentum,” Ramaphosa said.

Insufficient progress

Zondo did not appear to share the President’s sentiments, warning that if drastic measures were not taken urgently, South Africans would have no place to call home.

“Most of the corruption we get in SA is in the area of public procurement. If we can close the taps in public procurement, we will make a big difference in our fight against corruption. We recommended the establishment of a public anti-corruption agency. We see that the Public Procurement Bill of 2023 doesn’t have an institution like that.

“The levels of corruption in our country have reached completely unacceptable proportions, and unless something very drastic and effective is done soon, we will have no country worth calling our home,” Zondo said at the Nacac dialogue.

The Chief Justice further suggested that had the Scorpions, an independent and multidisciplinary unit, not been disbanded, corruption would not have skyrocketed to its current levels.

“I have a sense that if the Scorpions were not disbanded, we would not have the level of corruption that we have now in our country,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Reimagining of Parliament’ thwarted by patchy application of State Capture report proposals

Nacac chair Cachalia stressed the need for a multipronged approach in the fight against corruption. This would include setting up of new institutions in line with Zondo’s recommendations.  

“This is a complex task. You need skills, you need budgets, you need to get it right because you can set up institutions that fail and anti-corruption institutions that are captured by the corrupt. You can set up institutions in a way that they disrupt other institutions, for instance.

“We can’t think about setting up a new institution without thinking about how they affect the SIU [Special Investigating Unit] or the impact it will have on the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI).”

This comes after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) faced widespread criticism for its failure to produce evidence that the Gupta family’s network was implicated in the Nulane fraud and money-laundering case.

The Investigating Directorate (ID), tasked with delivering critical State Capture prosecutions, has said it would not be able to prosecute all State Capture cases because of a lack of resources, an inadequate budget and a skewed criminal justice system.

Instead, it will assess and prioritise cases that deliver the most impact and those that have been most damaging to SA’s constitutional democracy.


Zondo also reiterated the need for the incentivisation of whistle-blowers in cases where money was recovered, saying that they should be entitled to a percentage of recovered money. He urged the council to explore the format in which this would take place.   

“Whistle-blowers helped to stop State Capture. Everybody talks about the protection of whistle-blowers, but all of you would be aware the commission went beyond that, recommending we incentivise them to blow the whistle…”

“Incentivisation applies to somebody who makes a disclosure and then money is recovered, but perhaps this council can look at how do we incentivise whistle-blowers to come forward before the money is stolen,” Zondo said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Bring back the Scorpions ,they made a profit

  • Gavin Williams says:

    Sounds just like Johnson’s Britain

  • Louise Louise says:

    Can someone please just tell us who has gone to jail for corruption crimes? Anyone? The fish rots from the head. Il capo di tutti capi.

  • Peter Doble says:

    There are beacons of hope in the bleakness of South Africa – The Constitution, Chief Justice Zondo, Thuli Madonsela, Siya Kolisi – yet they are simply ignored or overwhelmed. We all live in hope, it’s the force that drives us. However hope is also the denial of reality.

  • Joe Soap says:

    Hope nobody was expecting the politicians to fix the mess they made.

  • tom cobley says:

    Zondo for president.
    The thief’s in charge of the country will do anything to stop investigations that will expose them..
    We are so captured and rotten that even the Zondo report cannot help us.
    In a truly democratic country political leaders would have already been behind bars .
    bring back the scorpions?

  • Jennifer D says:

    Looking at South Africa today, I wonder what the sanctimonious international community which pressurised SA with sanctions, says now. There was no process in handover and the ANC have demonstrated repeatedly that they were not ready to run an economy such as we had in SA. How is the international community responding to the chaos, incredible greed and criminality we now face? They have disappeared – back into the woodwork, looking down at their feet whilst sit with China and Russia as bed fellows – and they’re not the most admirable bunch. We now have a blatantly racist and incompetent government intent on stealing the last cent and driving SA into the ground. Of course they won’t implement Zondos recommendations – it would limit their self enrichment. What next?

    • Ben Harper says:

      Yup, I blame everyone who voted Yes in 1992

      • Betsy Kuhn says:


        • Grumpy Old Man says:

          Betsy, perhaps people continue to vote for the ANC because they are scared to lose what little they have left. Also, you & I are probably no more clever than the average person – we may just have enjoyed the privilege of a better education & have greater access to resources. To say persons who vote for the ANC have ‘no brains’ is the same as saying persons who vote for the DA are racist!

      • Louise Wilkins says:

        Ben, yes was the only possible way to vote in 1992. Apartheid was a terrible system against human rights and had to be dismantled, there’s no doubt about that.
        It was the way the handover from NP to ANC happened that went wrong. There was insufficient teaching time allowed, no time to mentor, teach the do’s and don’t’s about running a government, what a momentus responsibility it is and how important integrity is when handling citizen’s money. The anc never learned the basics. They were freedom fighters, not politicians or businessmen/women. Now they don’t care, because they’ve been looting for so long it has become normal to ‘eat a little bit’.

        • Michael Thomlinson says:

          Agree, but did the ANC comrades want to be taught? I think it was Zuma that said that the only reason he was in politics was to make money for himself and I think that is true for a lot of ANC comrades. Cadre deployment was there from the start with a lot of new ministers clueless as to what was required of them. Trevor Manuel was minister of finnace but had no background in finance, accounting or economics. Look at Gordhan today – he is a pharmacist by profession and I dont think has a clue as to how to run big busines yet is the minister of public enterprises.

        • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

          The process was:
          1. Suppress with no education, then
          2. Here, run a country with first world infrastructure

          …and anyone is surprised ZA is a giant mess?

        • Diau Diradiwele says:

          It is so laughable when people say the ANC had to first learn how to run a government from the evil racist people that had plundered the country for years. Really? Whilst challenges persist and the ruling party has messed up, they have done far better than an evil government that was only looking after 5% of the population. Madiba’s cabinet had more intellectuals than the apartheid government ever had. And what did they inherit? A broke fiscus, high debt levels, a fragmented, antiquated public service with no reporting systems, no annual reports, no public service auditing, etc. And you want us to believe the racist Nats could teach us something? The only reason you now known about corruption in government is precisely because of the system put in place by the ANC that you think should have learnt fr9m the stupid Nats. The problem is that you still long for your good old days when you were superior purely because of your skin colour. Sorry for your loss. It is this type of enduring racism that sustains and fuels the fascist behavior of the likes of Malema.

      • T'Plana Hath says:

        The carefully worded question which the electorate had to answer was as follows: “Do you support continuation of the reform process which the State President began on February 2, 1990, and which is aimed at a new constitution through negotiation?”
        And to this you would say, “No”? (I find this hard to believe)

    • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

      Do you intend that the international community is to blame for the situation in SA? and not only, the whole international community are also friends with China and Russia? Maybe you should get your facts right before blaming others and covering the rest of the world with false claims. Your ignorance is alarming!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    The only acceptable level of corruption is zero.

  • M D Fraser says:

    What is the “acceptable” proportion of corruption ? The title of this piece tells the whole story.

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      Indeed it does. So long as corruption and the pillaging of the public purse is regarded as acceptable or even admirable behaviour by the majority of voters we are doomed to complete the flush cycle our country is well into already. I had pretty much given up hope of voters waking up and the apparent increase in the eff polling has only increased my feeling of foreboding.

  • We need many more people like Chief Justice Zondo, in our government circles.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Anyone reading the daily revelations of corruption of the past 20 years plus will not be impressed by a mere 9 separate court cases… 900 would hardly be enough.

  • Richard Baker says:

    It is clear that the government and the statutory institutions (SARB, SARS,FIC, NPA, CIPC etc) aided by the banking and other monetary sectors(estate agents, motor dealerships etc) have neither the will nor the competence to properly investigate and prosecute state corruption-in fact by deliberately failing in their duties they are complicit!
    How can these massive transactions and money flows go unchecked and unreported?
    What good are “freezing orders” when the cases collapse at the first hurdle?
    Perpetrators run rings around these authorities and laugh as they drive away in their high-end cars to their palatial homes.
    How much has actually been recovered against identifiable cases?
    Would be great to see the brave and inquisitive journalists draw up a list of monies stolen vs actual recoveries.
    Is it Nigeria who have called in top global forensic teams( accountants, lawyers etc) on a contingency basis( no cure no pay) to help them recover proceeds of corruption? Why not go that route-70% is better than nothing!

    • Con Tester says:

      Won’t happen because it would mean that the ANC would have to relinquish its fevered grip on at least one lever of power. The ANC’s NDR states categorically that it seeks “hegemonic control of all the levers of power in society.”

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Ramaphosa has been part of the corruption journey ever since it wen totally out of control. First as deputy then as President. He has done NOTHING about cadre employment, part of that scourge, he wasted time trying to unite a totally fragmented party and did nothing about a bloated public service. Does he really believe that any thinking citizen believes his B.S.

  • Grumpy Old Man says:

    The situation is probably far worse than anyone could possibly imagine.
    Let’s start with Members of Parliaments Declaration of Interests. These members were selective in their Declarations – in other words, under reported / declared. That is business interests either in their own names or that of family members.
    This practice is not reserved for Parliamentarians, it happens at Municipal level also. That is where you have Councilors with multiple businesses registered in their names (or that of family members)
    It is almost certain these are not genuine businesses (ones that employ people & trade with someone other than Govt.) but who have gotten themselves on procurement lists & databases. Some of these individuals may have as many as 12 registered companies.
    The whole modus operandi is one based on extraction where the individuals concerned use their proximity & influence to enrich themselves.
    The practice is entrenched & indeed could be termed the ‘norm’
    If anyone was bewildered as to why none of the perpetrators of the July 2021 unrest have been arrested – if anyone was under any illusions as to why the Eskom Fivaz Report was not acted upon speaks to the extent & the ‘life & death’ implications of it all.
    To be clear it is not just the ANC it cuts across other political parties which is why you see contestation for particular portfolios amongst certain coalition partners

  • Johan Herholdt says:

    Thank you Judge Zondo, you are one of the finest examples of so many people of all races that are doing their utmost to keep our country afloat in this tide of corruption caused by the ANC-led government’s policies – as you pointed out so clearly in your report. The reason why so little has been done is that those who made the steal have not had time to erase their tracks and hide the money away where we cannot get to it. The ANC caders and tenderpreneurs should take some advice from bankers and business leaders.

  • jguigard says:

    Until when in the SA legal system anyone (citizens and State) needs two lawyers to bring his case to a Court (an attorney and an advocate) and until the lawyers are authorized to charge every second (not every minute) of their time to the cliet (citizen and State) and until there is no real oversight on the lawyers’ malfeasance (in other words the citizen is not protected by anyone in case of bad lawyers) the corruption will flourish with no limit, simply because the State would need trillions of billions of US dollars (not simply Rand) to start cases against al these corrupted crooks, which after all have been appointed by the political power.

  • Fuad XXX says:

    Hell, Mr. President other than being shocked do you have no shame? Please admit it is not in your DNA to fix SA & then hand it over to competent persons. The DA’s John Steenhuizen for instance.

  • Betsy Kuhn says:


  • Richard Brown says:

    Two dicta (dictums?) worth remembering
    ‘Veritas prevalebit’ ~ truth will be victorious and
    There is only one degree of integrity

  • Peter Dexter says:

    Why would the ANC want to stop corruption? It is their reason for being. I would be very surprised if many ANC politicians are doing their jobs to serve the people of South Africa in exchange for a salary.

  • Niki Moore says:

    The ANC government always behaves as if corruption is an external force, like the weather, over which they have no control. If they were serious about fighting corruption, here is a very simple means: Make it a condition of ANC membership that all members are required to sign a pledge that, if they are accused of corruption, their salary gets paid into a trust until the matter is finalised. If they are acquitted, they get their salary in full with interest. If they are found guilty, they forfeit their salary to the state. Additionally, they are never allowed further to hold public office or work in the public sector. If they are innocent, the state pays their costs, if they are guilty, they pay their own costs. This will achieve three things: the accused will have a massive incentive to speed up any prosecution; they will not draw a salary while spinning out the process; and the state gets a lot of money back. Also, without their lucrative salaries, their supporters will vanish.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Constructive proposals .

    • Janet Sully says:

      This is a very constructive solution to the problem of embedded corruption. Very constructive. If the solution would become law, then the restrictions placed on these thieves would soon stop them in their tracks and make them withdraw their sticky fingers from the cookie jar and think again about lying and looting. There would not be this nonsense of full salary while suspended for year upon year upon year while the investigations drag on and on.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Just all talk. But remember Ramaposer is still “fighting corruption” and “fighting corruption” and . . . .

    The fact that no one goes to jail really is a side issue and has no relevance is S.A.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Ah yes, dollar couch man who chaired the deployment committee which gave us the likes of that most stalwart of saxonwold shebeen patrons soundbiting off about fighting corruption. Can anyone listen to this odious man without wanting to scream, cry or dissolve from embarrassment.

    • Betsy Kuhn says:

      AND The LAST thing the ANC worries is about is the people of SA – they ONLY CARE ABOUT STEALING OUR MONEY and filling their pockets with it – same as that UIF 500 Billion bride – now the ANC wants to prosecute the whistle blower…but where theirs smoke …… I WILL NOT BE SURPRISED and hope that this whistleblower will take it right to the top…if he lives to tell his story

  • Mike Viljoen says:

    Surely any level of corruption is unacceptable? Zondo’s statement suggests that there is a limit only above which it is considered unacceptable.

  • dmpotulo says:

    The President is economical with the truth and his cabinet is full of dubious and questionable characters. He is himself not exonerated in the phala phala scandal. The Minister who was robbed this week was instrumental in the destruction of effective Scorpions while she was an MP. The more things change the more they remain the same.

  • Derek Jones says:

    Know and believe this, the ANC is corrupt beyond reason. If you support the ANC, you are part of the problem. If you are in the ANC , you are the problem. Ramaphosa and all of you in the ANC and who support the ANC, we will never forgive what you and the ANC have done to our country and its people.

  • Wacky Me says:

    Just imagine if South Africa had a president like Zondo……

  • davidramol says:

    I am struggling to open the comments section

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    For success in any venture, the primary condition must be determination to succeed.
    In the case of corruption in South Africa, there seems to be no such condition because those who are corrupt hold the reins of power and have little motivation to change the status quo

  • Awareness Publishing Mike says:

    Daily Maverick, please, please! Spare us all the the suffering of having to listen those boring and repetitive ads before we listen to any of these articles. They only serve to deter your readers from reading any article by those two laughing jokers! We really don’t want to hear the same repetitive as twenty times a day!

  • Hilary Morris says:

    Chief Justice Zondo must be feeling a mix of many of the sentiments expressed by readers of this article. It must be extremely difficult for him to even appear on the same platform as our very un-esteemed president. I wonder how much comfort he can draw from the appreciation of South Africans, and, apparently the admiration he has received world wide. So, THANK YOU Judge Zondo. Long may you be with us!

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    There are at least two beneficiaries in any act of corruption – the provider of a service or product and the recipient of the benefits . One only has to see the lifestyles of some owners of BEE compliant businesses to realise that corruption in central and local government, Eskom and other SOE’s is not limited to the recipient.

    Unless and until the corrupt providers are identified, fined and jailed the party will continue.

    By investigating the sellers rather than the buyers and by punishing them harshly and publicly, the incentive to do crooked business will quickly be removed and the taps turned off.

  • Donal Slemon says:

    Interesting as much of the zondo findings were, they didn’t really tell us much that we didn’t already know or suspect.
    Sadly, like many the lasting feeling is that the whole process was simply a piece of very expensive theatre – to give the impression that something is being done.
    After all, all the exposés and investigations in the world are somewhat pointless unless consequences follow promptly.

  • mnce.ndongeni17 says:

    Shame on us those who had put all our trust in the so called revolutionary alliance. Had we known better…!
    These fellows have no conscience at all. A fish rots from the head.

  • Helen Kruger says:

    With the Department of Justice themselves being corrupt and reporting to the SIU yields nothing, where to next? When your kids are brutalised by the very cops that are meant to be there to protect you, but you’re too scared to do anything about it lest you’re shot outside the Magistrates Court, where to next… you can’t blame those that have lost hope!

  • Bruce Hutchison says:

    So pleased to read that Ramaphosa was present at the meeting but must really ask if he truly was there or if he just sent his suite and tie to sit there grinning his trademark grin whilst, as usual doing nothing but being an ineffective politician rather than the statesman we need. Reminds one about “all about nothing”. Cry for our beloved country.

  • Graham Stapleton says:

    South Africa is not a democracy.
    What we have is a kleptocratic kakistocracy that has destroyed, to mention but a few, every SOE and most of our universities.
    Our much-vaunted constitution is often used for propaganda, but is constantly subverted by the “cadres”.
    This is the consequence, intended or not, of cadre deployment and BBBEE, where gangsters and ex-convicts have been elevated to positions of extreme power
    We saw it happen in Zimbabwe and our gangsters eagerly followed suite.

  • Sam Bowker says:

    What a foolish statement, implying that corruption is acceptable up to a certain level. A fascinating insight into the mindset of public servants.

  • Dick Beaumont says:

    When Cyril took over after Zuma’s misbehaviour,
    He entered the stage hoping to be our Saviour,
    Now that all has gone awry,
    And all are wondering why,
    It’s because he is not Ramaphoria but really Ramafailure

  • danisilengobo67 says:

    Neither starting from the present and his colleagues in Fraud Crime must be arrested as well all of his assets must be forfeited to return the money back to the state.

  • Pierre Rossouw says:

    Our South African super-achievers are truly World Class. People like Andre de Ruyter, Madonsela, Kolisi, Mandela, Zondo and others whose names have been mentioned, but not limited to these great stars. Most unfortunately these heroes are perceived by our current “leaders” to be the greatest threats to their corrupt manners and ways.
    Whoever does nothing against corrupt individuals is clearly not only endorsing such but is enabling such corruption.

  • Ari Maharaj says:

    At this point, when there’s a 5500 page report of what happend, why it happend and what imperative steps need to be taken going forward, along with the author himself, Chief Justice Zondo, stating that drastic actions are needed to resolve the deep level of corruption the goverment finds themselves, there is absolutely no excuse for firm action not to be taken by the President. He has essentially been handed an instruction manual, failure to adhere to it solidifies what many people have been thinking – that he stands to gain (or has been gaining) from the corruption that surrounds him

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