State capture commission granted a 13-month extension

The Zondo commission into state capture has been granted a further 13-month extension to finish its work. However, this is the “final extension”, said the Pretoria high court.

The commission was meant to wrap up its work by March. But its chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, went to court urgently for an extension, saying that if the commision was to end in March it would render futile all the work done so far.

In granting the extension, Judge Wendy Hughes said that Zondo had made a case for the 13 extra months. The commission still needed to complete “phase II” of the evidence relating to Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SAA, SA Express and the SABC.

It had not heard any evidence in relation to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and needed to hear at least 10 witnesses about Prasa. There were also a further 15 witnesses to hear in relation to the Free State province. Then the commission would need further time to write and deliver its report to the president, she said.

The interests of justice dictate that finality be obtained with findings, recommendations and a report of the commission. The commission owes this to the nation as the work of the commission is of national interest

Judge Wendy Hughes

However, Hughes said that further extensions were “not warranted on the applicant’s version” as set out in his court papers. Hughes said that the commission was originally given 180 days by former public protector Thuli Madonsela to complete its work and this was extended for a further two years. 

“The interests of justice dictate that finality be obtained with findings, recommendations and a report of the commission. The commission owes this to the nation as the work of the commission is of national interest,” said the judge.

Zondo had told the court that, if the terms of reference were narrowed to the original parameters first set in Madonsela’s State of Capture report, he was reasonably confident that he would be done by the end of the year. 

However, he was opposed to the argument made by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution and the public protector that the court should order that this be the last extension.

In court, Zondo’s counsel, Paul Kennedy SC, argued that Zondo’s view of how much time was needed was based on what he knew right now. But it was hard to predict what could still happen and it would be reckless for Zondo to be categorical about an end date. It would also be wrong, in principle, to fetter a later court’s ability to decide whether to grant a further extension, argued Kennedy.

But Hughes said making this the last extension would not prejudice the commission. “The period granted in respect of the extension was the case made out by the applicant in his papers. If the applicant anticipated a longer period, he would have sought the same,” she said. 

Read the judgment below:

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Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian
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