We are finally up and running with regards the State Capture Commission, and I guess every journey starts with a single step.
At least that’s what those inspirational quote pictures posted to Facebook by annoying former schoolmates say.
Yesterday Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo [above] set the wheels in motion, meaning the commission now has 19 months (24 months from the date of 1 March 2018) left to uncover just how sticky the fingers of the State Capture agents really were.
Via News24, here are the day’s main talking points.
Not much action…yet
No witnesses were called. The bulk of the day consisted of the inquiry’s legal head, advocate Paul Pretorius, framing the work of the commission and putting it into the proper legal context.
Lots of reading ahead
Commissioner advocate Thandi Norman spent the afternoon reading an inventory of various source documents into the record. This included the Public Protector’s State of Capture report, as well as various investigative and audit reports.
Nice to see that something might actually come of Thuli’s damning report.
Former president Jacob Zuma, capture don Ajay Gupta, fixer Fana Hlongwane, Zuma loyalist and ex-Presidency official Lakela Kaunda and Gupta enabler Lynne Brown have all recruited serious legal muscle. Mike Hellens, Muzi Sikhakhane and Jaap Cilliers don’t come cheap, nor have they come as friends of the inquiry.
Imagine working your whole life to become a top laywer, and then defending the likes of the Guptas and Lynne Brown.
Insulating the inquiry from criticism
Pretorius delivered a carefully crafted opening statement, drawing on the Constitution and relevant laws to locate the inquiry squarely in a constitutional legal framework. But he also went wider and explained the socio-economic impact of state capture on righting the wrongs of the past. Put simply: Pretorius will show how the shadow state subverted the democratic project.
Don’t tune out yet
We will at long last hear what exactly happened when Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on December 9, 2015, an unconstrained Pravin Gordhan will detail the enormous assault on National Treasury under Zuma, and Mcebisi Jonas will give a blow-by-blow account of the day he was offered his boss’ job by Ajay Gupta. It is going to make for riveting viewing.
There’s something to look forward to in a perverse kind of way.
The truth could quite possibly set some people free
Pretorius confirmed that it was possible that should a witness come forward with self-incriminating evidence, but which helps to expose capture, the commission can recommend that a lesser penalty or the lightest of sanctions be imposed on such a witness.
Given that many of those who were captured displayed zero moral fortitude, perhaps we will hear them sing.
Anything but plain sailing
Zondo lamented not only the lack of new witnesses or whistleblowers approaching the inquiry, but also that it has been struggling to get the full cooperation of government and state. It has approached the minister of finance twice and the State Security Agency has hobbled attempts to secure security clearance for its investigators.
The inquiry resumes today at 9AM, with Willie Mathebula as the first witness.
He is the acting chief procurement officer at Treasury, and as such knows everything there is to know about how government went about spending nearly R840bn annually on goods and services. And he knows where quite a few bodies are buried.
Dish the dirt, Willie.
Here’s a look at some of the key players:
19 months though, hey, and we are only kicking things off now after Thuli Madonsela’s State Capture Report was completed as far back as 2016.
I think it’s clear where EWN’s cartoonists stand on the matter:
Expect this one to dominate headlines for some time, with all the usual legal posturing and obfuscation.
Whether or not anyone will ever be held accountable for the looting and pillaging remains to be seen, but South Africans will be paying the price for generations to come.
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