Ramaphosa vague on capture inquiry terms and Zuma

Cyril Ramaphosa says a state capture inquiry should simultaneously be broad and focused. (Lulama Zenzile/Die Burger/Gallo)

Cyril Ramaphosa says a state capture inquiry should simultaneously be broad and focused. (Lulama Zenzile/Die Burger/Gallo)

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday told Parliament that a judicial inquiry into state capture is necessary, is urgent, should be welcomed by those implicated – and that President Jacob Zuma was working towards establishing one.

“As we speak now he is in the process of consulting his legal advisers to find ways of giving effect to this proposal,” Ramaphosa said of Zuma. “It is in the interests of all South Africans that the commission should be set up as quickly as possible.”

There is agreement, including by Zuma, that a commission must be set up, and only “the modalities of having it appointed” were outstanding, Ramaphosa said.

Zuma this week put new papers before the courts countering the Democratic Alliance’s case to force him to set up such a commission – while he challenges the way in which he has been ordered to set it up.

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela ordered Zuma to establish a commission by appointing a judge chosen by the chief justice. Zuma is arguing that this requirement is unlawful.

Ramaphosa said an inquiry was essential to restore confidence in the state-owned enterprises that dominate the economy. But he returned several times to the idea that “those allegedly implicated should also have an opportunity to respond to the allegations that are being made against them” – and that an inquiry would provide the forum not only to pursue the guilty, but also to exonerate the innocent.

Several pressure groups are seeking a hearing before the Constitutional Court to ask it to direct Ramaphosa to set up such an inquiry, because, they say, Zuma is conflicted on the matter.

Ramaphosa was firmly on the fence about how broad the terms of reference for an inquiry should be. In May, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, speaking for the party, said it was important to consider state capture, going back as long ago as 1994. Some viewed this as an effort to make any inquiry interminable and dilute its eventual findings.

Ramaphosa told the National Assembly that an inquiry should be simultaneously broad and focused.

“We hope and trust that the terms of reference will be focused as well as broad enough to make sure that the whole issue of state capture is properly analysed and investigated in all its ramifications and make sure that the truth in the end does come out,” he said. “The governing party in my view is not trying to make the process long or complicated; in fact it wants it to be as focused as possible and happen as quickly as possible.”

Ramaphosa passed up several opportunities either to defend or lambast Zuma, as MPs posed questions about to the president’s morals and integrity.

“You may want to condemn President Zuma for a whole number of things and so forth, but I think we should also focus on what our country has achieved,” he said. “It has achieved a phenomenal amount of progress.”

Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet writes about politics, society, economics, and the areas where these collide. He has never been anything other than a journalist, though he has been involved in starting new newspapers, magazines and websites, a suspiciously large percentage of which are no longer in business. PGP fingerprint: CF74 7B0F F037 ACB9 779C 902B 793C 8781 4548 D165 Read more from Phillip de Wet

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