After a year of delay, President Jacob Zuma’s legal team on Tuesday afternoon said he was willing to set up a state capture inquiry before the end of the year.
“Having announced an intention to appoint a commission of inquiry, it is recorded that the president will proclaim a commission of inquiry within thirty days of the date of this order,” reads a draft order Zuma’s advocates presented to the high court in Pretoria.
Such an order would “just and equitable”, Zuma’s team said.
However, the proposed order did not address the nature of the commission, potentially leaving it open for Zuma to appoint a judge of his choosing to investigate allegations centred on himself — and make the scope of the inquiry as broad or narrow as he wishes.
Zuma is before the court with an application to be freed from the obligation to set up just such a commission on inquiry, after being ordered to do so by then public protector Thuli Madonsela in 2016.
Zuma’s legal team stunned the court last week when, in the dying minutes of that application, they abandoned a proposal that state capture be referred back to Madonsela’s successor, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
In response the court gave the opposition parties who opposed Zuma’s application the opportunity to file additional arguments in writing. Zuma’s offer to set up the commission of inquiry he had been fighting is contained in his two-page response to those arguments.
Zuma said the arguments by the opposition parties “warrant no response”, and that asking for an adverse cost order against him “is misplaced”. Instead costs should be awarded against those parties, he said.
He also maintained that a part of the Madonsela report State of Capture should be set aside. That report required him to establish an inquiry headed by a judge selected by the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, with allegations around the Gupta family as its starting point, and set out tight deadlines.
Zuma proposed that “the complaints regarding the alleged breaches of the Code of Ethics” that applies to the executive be referred back to the public protector.
Last week opposition parties strongly argued against Zuma being allowed to select a judge for an inquiry into state capture, saying it would undermine public confidence and be unlawful.
They also argued against allowing Zuma to set the terms of reference for such an inquiry.
Zuma supporters within the ANC have called on him to set up an inquiry that would also consider state capture under apartheid, something that it is anticipated could take several years.