PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has hit the newly elected ANC leadership with a curveball just hours before discussions into his future were set to take place, with the announcement of the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
This comes months after former public protector Thuli Madonsela in her report recommended he does so in her remedial actions.
Zuma challenged the remedial actions in court, but the High Court in Pretoria ruled against him in late 2017.
“Pursuant to the investigation and remedial action of the Public Protector regarding complaints and allegations of the State of Capture, as well as the orders issued by the North Gauteng High Court in its judgment of 14 December 2017, I have decided to appoint a Commission of Inquiry,” Zuma said in a statement.
“The Court ordered that, among other things, the remedial action of the Public Protector is binding, and that the President is directed to appoint a commission of inquiry within 30 days, headed by a judge solely selected by the Chief Justice. The Court also ordered that I should personally pay the costs of the review.”
Zuma has challenged the court ruling, arguing that it was a judicial overreach to strip him of the powers to appoint a judge to head the commission. He said he has appealed the cost order as well as the order regarding the duties of the President to appoint commissions of inquiry in terms of section 84 of the Constitution. The Constitution says the President of the Republic is the one who can set up commissions of inquiries and the judges to head them up.
Despite having challenged the court ruling, he said he wanted to put the matter to bed as it has been a topic of discussion for a very long time.
“I have considered this matter very carefully, including the unprecedented legal implications of the order directing the Chief Justice to select a single judge to head the commission of inquiry. I have expressed my reservations about the legality of this directive, which may be the subject of the appeal. I would like to emphasise that I have faith in all the judges and their ability to execute their tasks with the requisite levels of fairness, impartiality and independence,” he said.
Zuma added that he had already requested Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to provide him with a name of the person who should head the inquiry. Mogoeng selected Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlungisi Zondo to “undertake the task”.
Putting aside his legal challenge, Zuma said the matter deserved immediate attention to restore confidence in government. His move comes as mummering’s regarding his removal gain traction. Party members and some National Executive Committee members have been complaining about the issue of two centres of power – him being the country’s president and Cyril Ramaphosa leading the organisation. His failure to establish the Commission of Inquiry has been one of the underpinning grounds for the calls of his removal.
“I am concerned that this matter has occupied the public mind for some time now and deserves urgent attention. I have only appealed the orders to the extent that they set a particular precedent for the Office of the President of the Republic and are indeed deserving of legal certainty,” he said.
Zuma’s relationship with the Gupta family has come under severe scrutiny with Madonsela’s report saying the family was making cabinet appointments.
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas’ claims that he was offered R600 000 by the family to take over from Nhlanhla Nene as Finance Minister before he was even removed from his position gave the claim traction. Jonas claimed he met one of the Gupta brothers in Saxonworld and it was there where he was offered the position, but he declined.
Zuma said the allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa, was of paramount importance and therefore deserving of finality and certainty.
“Accordingly, I have decided that, while the issues determined by the order require a final determination by higher courts, this matter cannot wait any longer. It is of such serious public concern that any further delay will make the public doubt government’s determination to dismantle all forms of corruption, and entrench the public perception that the state has been captured by private interests for nefarious and self-enrichment purposes.
The commission must seek to uncover not just the conduct of some, but of all those who may have rendered our state or parts thereof vulnerable to control by forces other than the public for which government is elected,” he said.