Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wants a final extension to 31 December to allow him and his team to finalise the report of the state capture commission.
Zondo has approached the Gauteng high court for an order extending the commission’s term by another three months, asking that the matter be heard urgently, because a delay in doing so would result in the commission being forced to submit a final report to President Cyril Ramaphosa with no recommendations or findings.
The commission’s term has already been extended by three months from June until 30 September, by which time Zondo had hoped to have finalised its report.
However, the process of assessing and summarising the evidence of more than 330 witnesses, delivered over a three-year period, took longer than anticipated for a number of reasons.
In an affidavit submitted to the high court in Pretoria, Zondo said that he had hoped to have concluded the report of the commission, which began its work in 2018, by the end of September.
The extension had been requested, in part, to allow for the evidence of the president, which was heard in August, and that of six other witnesses. The commission had, however, decided against calling them.
Zondo said that, apart from an application for leave to cross-examine, which he would decide on within the next few days, all planned oral evidence had been completed.
While the teams assessing and summarising evidence had been at work, they had been delayed by team members having to be replaced and by others falling ill, he said.
Although the report is written by Zondo himself, the work of analysis and assessing the thousands of hours of evidence was conducted by a number of teams, assigned according to themes. Initial and second drafts had been produced, but the work was behind schedule.
“The experience of what happened during July and August as the team was summarising and analysing evidence revealed that we are not going to complete the report by the end of September,” Zondo said.
Although the report should be finalised by the middle of November, Zondo said he was asking for an extension until the end of December “just in case we need more time than up to the end of November”.
Zondo said he believed his assessment to be “realistic”, based on how long it had taken to deliver the first and second drafts of the report and that it should be ready to go for binding by the middle of November.
Zondo noted that he had also returned to court as deputy chief justice since the June application, because of the absence of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, who had gone on long leave.
This required that he “strike a balance” between his work as chairperson of the commission and that of acting chief justice, which entailed court work and administrative duties.
Zondo said that it would be in the public interest to grant the extension and allow the commission to “complete its work properly and submit its report to the president”.
If the court refused, the commission’s work would end “without the report that needs to be submitted to the president”.
“The commission would end its work abruptly at the end of September, without having made any findings and recommendations about the issues of alleged state capture, fraud and corruption that it has been investigating for over three years,”’Zondo said. “That result would not be in the public interest.”
An additional three months would not be unreasonable, Zondo said.
The application is set to be heard on 28 September.