President Cyril Ramaphosa has indicated that he will not oppose an urgent court application by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo to extend the lifespan on the state capture inquiry to the end of April.
Zondo this week asked the high court in Pretoria to allow him more time to complete his report, proposing that he hand a third instalment to the president at the end of February, and the fourth and final part some two months later.
In court papers, he said the findings in the third part will include those on covering Eskom, Bosasa, plus possibly attempts to capture the treasury and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), the Free State asbestos scandal and the housing scandal.
This will leave about six or seven remaining topics. “It will not be able to cover all the remaining topics … and will not complete the commission’s report,” Zondo said, adding that it should nonetheless span some 1 500 pages.
Part four should include, inter alia, his findings on the SABC, the Estina dairy project, aspects of state and crime intelligence and a “big picture” overview of his findings on state capture.
Zondo said he took responsibility for the proposed delay because he had under-estimated the length of time needed to complete the remainder of the report, not because all concerned did not work hard enough to meet the deadline.
“For that I take full responsibility and apologise to the honourable court, the president and to all concerned.”
He noted that by the time the third instalment is released, the commission would have put in the public domain and in the hands of the National Prosecuting Authority some 3 000 pages of findings and recommendations. The first two parts were released in early January and February.
“That will be a report that will keep the law enforcement agencies, including the National Prosecuting Authority, busy for a long time, particularly because the investigations they must conduct and the decisions which the NPA must make whether or not to prosecute will not just require them to carefully study the report but also to carefully study the thousands of pages of transcripts of oral evidence, exhibits and affidavits on which those parts of the report will be based.”
Zondo had, during his interview with the Judicial Service Commission as one of the candidates for chief justice, ventured that it would take “an army” of prosecutors to act on the recommendations in his report.
He said in his affidavit to the court that his candidacy had contributed in a minor way to the delay in completing the report, because he needed to prepare for the interview and to rest for a few days afterwards.
“Although that was largely because of the preparation for the interview and the interview itself, it was also because I have been working for a long time on the report without rest.”
He noted that he and his staff had worked nights, weekends and holidays in an attempt to meet all deadlines.
Zondo said that although he assigned topics to members of his team, he needed to scrutinise every part of what they produced to ensure that he was satisfied with the final document included in the wider report.
There are certain documents he knew he would not be able to go through before the end of the month “with the best will in the world”. These included those relating to the public broadcaster, the State Security Agency and crime intelligence and the Estina project.
The urgent application will be heard on Tuesday. The deadline for objections was noon on Friday. The president, the first respondent, indicated that he would abide by the court’s decision.