On 1 March Chief Justice Zondo released Volume 3 of his State Capture Report. The damning number of unprosecuted revelations in this weighty tome exemplify the commission’s sacrificial white elephant status, devouring tax-payer funds in the name of a purely theoretical corruption crackdown.
The Zondo Commission is estimated to have cost the taxpayer R 1 billion, whilst state capture is estimated to have fleeced SA to the tune of R 1.5 trillion.
The commission’s function was not to hold the implicated, criminally liable, but to ‘assist’ the NPA in unearthing evidence. In reality the commission blatantly distracted from the NPA’s absurdly dismal rate of state capture criminal prosecution. At the time of writing only two state capture big fish, Ace Magashule and Jacob Zuma, had been criminally indicted. Making matters worse is that neither Magashule nor Zuma’s criminal trial charges appear to show any overlap between evidence led at the commission and evidence that will be presented at their criminal trials. It seems neither charge sheet has been supplemented since the commencement of Zondo, why this has not happened would be baffling were it not for the NPA’s obvious reticence to put behind bars its political masters.
To better understand the crony protectionist sham that was the commission, one must appreciate the context of its genesis. In January 2018 then President Jacob Zuma announced the establishment of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry. The ANC was backed into a corner by the erstwhile Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s alarming state capture report findings. For the ANC doing nothing was politically impossible, a trapped rat needed to make some sort of move. The establishment of the commission proved with hindsight to be a stroke of genius for the ANC; it was a way of appearing to do something without actually doing anything. It became the ultimate ANC anti-corruption PR extravaganza, funded by the taxpayers, the very people so poorly served and stolen from by the greedy pilferers in power.
Unfortunately for those of us who so desperately want accountability, the Zondo report’s findings are merely recommendations with no criminal conviction ramifications; the NPA has discretion to act but is not mandated to do so. Adding insult to injury, none of the inquiry evidence is directly useable by the NPA in a criminal court as evidence of incrimination. A follow up criminal prosecution by trial would thus require the leading of fresh oral and documentary evidence; the inquiry was thus a dress rehearsal for what should follow.
Compounding the problem, the inquiry may have done more harm than good by rather conveniently giving targeted individuals an opportunity to tailor their lies in preparation for criminal trial. Normally, no savvy litigator or prosecutor would show their cards before trial, here possible defendants have been given the benefit of a cross-examination dry run knowing the NPA that must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. One is left wondering if the Luthuli House thieves were not behind the establishment of the commission and this whole exercise was a deliberate and cunning ploy.
We are repeatedly told the NPA’s paralysis is as a result of lack of funding; the R 1 billion pay out for state capture overwhelmingly disproves this notion. This money could clearly have been employed more efficiently by the NPA in using the criminal courts while hiring of top senior counsel and forensic experts to ensure effective prosecution. There is also no reason why the NPA cannot motivate for similar levels of funding to pursue follow up prosecutions. It is evidently not a lack of resources that plagues the NPA, but a lack of political will.
In kleptocracies there is no honour amongst thieves. Too many skeletons in the Luthuli House closet, which is why the tax-paying public was forced to put up with and fork out for the Zondo charade.
There likely will not be any meaningful follow-up criminal court prosecutions. The damage done by the cross-examination dry run probably will not matter as the commission becomes just another tax write off.
Shamila Batohi your silence is deafening, your inaction puzzling; please prove me wrong.