/ 9 January 2018

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to head commission of inquiry into state capture

Deputy chief justice nominee Ray Zondo.
The report's official handover was expected to take place later on Monday, after the Zondo commission said it would submit an electronic version to the president on Sunday evening. (Gallo)

Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng has made the decision to appoint deputy chief justice Raymond  Zondo, the Presidency announced in a statement on Tuesday evening.

In the statement, President Jacob Zuma announced that he is officially appointing a commission of inquiry into state capture. Zuma said that the Pretoria high court’s order for him to appoint a commission within 30 days to be presided over by a judge chosen by the Chief Justice influenced his decision to make the announcement.

The court’s ruling came after Zuma had applied for a review of the public protector’s State of Capture report. On December 14 2017, Judge Dunstan Mlambo found Zuma to be “reckless” in pursuing the review and ordered him to appoint the commission of inquiry.

Despite being at the centre of state capture allegations, Zuma emphasised in his announcement that the accusations were of “paramount importance” and are “therefore deserving of finality and certainty”. State capture refers to the capture of South African public entities and coffers by the Gupta family through their business and political networks.

“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,” Zuma said.

“There should be no area of corruption and culprit that should be spared the extent of this commission of inquiry.”

Zondo was appointed deputy chief justice in June 2017. He has been a Constitutional Court judge since 2012 and has served on several commissions, including the Goldstone Commission, which investigated political violence that took place between 1991 and 1994.

Last year, Zondo gained public affection from South Africans after a video of his interview for the position of deputy chief justice went viral on social media. In the video, Zondo spoke of a shop owner who had helped his family after he matriculated. Because of the man’s help, Zondo went on to study law, feeling safe that his family had some assistance. Later, Zondo returned to repay the shop owner, but instead, the owner offered advice.

“He said ‘no, don’t worry, just do to others what I have done to you’,” Zondo recalled emotionally. “I thought that was very important and in my own small way I try to do that.”

Read Zuma’s full statement below, where the president also says he is taking legal advice on whether to appeal the costs order of Mlambo’s ruling. Mlambo ordered Zuma to pay costs out of his own pocket:

Fellow South Africans

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.

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.

I have 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.

However, I am taking further legal advice on the prosecution of this appeal. 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.

The allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa, is of paramount importance and are therefore deserving of finality and certainty.

Accordingly, I have decided that, while the issues determined by the order require 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.

There should be no area of corruption and culprit that should be spared the extent of this commission of inquiry.

I am also mindful of the concerns raised by the Public Protector in her report, wherein she lamented the lack of resources to conduct a wider inquiry into this matter.

Accordingly, by making more resources available, it is my sincere hope that the commission, will be able to reach many of those areas of concern that may not have been reached by the Public Protector’s investigation, but form part of what she might have investigated, had she had sufficient resources to do so.

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.

I requested the Chief Justice to provide me with the name of the judge to head the Commission. He has selected Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlungisi Zondo to undertake this task.

I urge everyone to cooperate with the commission of inquiry.

I trust that we will all respect the process and place no impediments to prevent the Commission from doing its work.

I thank you.