Public Protector's state capture investigations get mired in red tape
The once fast-paced investigation into state capture has slowed to a sloth’s pace, with the office of the public protector bowing out and the Hawks saying related criminal complaints “need a lot of time” to investigate.
That lets off the hook, at least for the time being, four state-owned enterprises, a foreign-owned bank, President Jacob Zuma and his mining minister, Mosebenzi Zwane, even though a report found reason to investigate all of them.
And it leaves as the only victims of the investigation, for the foreseeable future, Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe and board member Mark Pamensky, who both resigned under a cloud after their links to the Gupta family were formally documented.
The public protector has not and will not initiate a second phase of the investigation into state capture, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s office confirmed this week, because her predecessor had taken the matter out of her hands.
“The remedial action taken by the former public protector essentially means that the initial plan to do a two-phased inquiry by the office will no longer happen,” a spokesperson said on Thursday.
“The former public protector concluded the state capture report by making an observation that the scope of the matter is bigger than the capacity of the office; hence she then called for a commission of inquiry to deal with the matter in totality.”
There had been suggestions that Mkhwebane could pursue seven lines of inquiry intentionally not explored by Thuli Madonsela, who focused on the relationship between Eskom and the Gupta family.
Executives at one state-owned enterprise had taken such suggestions seriously enough to explore ways to prevent Mkhwebane from accessing the kind of cellphone records Madonsela used to link Molefe with the Guptas. Those executives may instead have to deal with the Hawks, but not any time soon.
“These cases are not gathering dust; they are being probed,” Hawks spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said on Thursday about criminal complaints linked to state capture, some old and some new, centralised under the Hawks.
But he immediately cautioned against expectations of rapid developments. “People just want us to do things quickly,” Mulaudzi said. “It needs a lot of time.”
That leaves the commission of inquiry that Madonsela ordered Zuma to establish by mid-December. But with the multiple complex legal challenges to the report that contained that order, with at least one specifically aimed at the mechanism of establishing the commission, that deadline is unlikely to be met — and the betting odds are against it ever getting off the ground.