/ 6 January 2022

Interest groups welcome Zondo commission report, but want concrete action

State Capture Commission Of Inquiry – Day 1
Criminal sanctions for professional enablers are vital to changing the way of doing business that facilitates and encourages corruption. (Photo by Gallo Images / Sowetan / Alon Skuy)

South African lobby and rights groups as well as political parties say the first report on state capture released this week provides an opportunity for civil society and the public to press for accountability and action. 

Acting chief justice Raymond Zondo, chair of the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, handed the first of its three-part report to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday and it was released to the public soon afterwards.

“Granting the public simultaneous access to the findings and recommendations of the Zondo commission ensures transparency in the steps taken to identify priorities that will help to fix weakened institutions and corruption-enabling loopholes, Corruption Watch said.

The last two parts have to be submitted by 28 February and Ramaphosa must submit the full report to parliament by 30 June, with an indication of his intentions with regards to implementation of the commission’s recommendations. 

Corruption Watch said the Zondo commission uncovered corruption on an unprecedented scale during its four years of hearing evidence and the public had a right to be part of the process that monitors the implementation of Zondo’s recommendations. 

The real test will be in the commitment to follow through on overturning corrupt processes, and ensuring that all those implicated are brought to book, its executive director Karam Singh said, adding: “Less encouraging is the length of time that will no doubt ensue before any real action or consequences can be seen.”

Corruption Watch welcomed the recommendation for an independent anti-corruption agency that has the mandate to deal with abuses of systems and laws. But it noted that the proposed anti-corruption agency’s structure and where it was located in relation to the government needed careful consideration.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) said the handover of the report was an occasion to celebrate “despite the fact that we have already experienced years of hearing evidence and exposés of ever-worsening scenarios of state capture and grand looting”. 

“It [the report] is a savage indictment not just of criminal behaviour but also of the failures of those responsible for oversight,” Outa said in a statement.

Outa said it was particularly pleased with the recommendation that the former chair of national carrier SAA, Dudu Myeni, be prosecuted by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). 

Myeni and Yakhe Kwinana, a former SAA board member, audit committee chair and SAA Technical board chair, “caused sustained damage to our national airline”, the commission report states. “They bullied officials within SAA who tried to resist their unlawful conduct. They created a climate so intolerable for many personnel that they left the airline or were forced out only to be replaced by more pliant employees.”

Outa said the cabinet should also be tasked with finding and approving more resources to ensure the Special Investigating Unit, the NPA, the courts, the Asset Forfeiture Unit and the South African Revenue Services are up to the task of bringing to book those implicated in the Zondo report.

“We believe this report will give new energy to the fight against corruption,” it said.

Both Corruption Watch and Outa welcomed the recognition given to whistleblowers by the commission and Ramaphosa and urged all South Africans to report acts of corruption, maladministration and mismanagement to authorities and private whistleblower platforms. 

Political opposition parties also applauded the handover of the report, with Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen calling for prosecutions and consequences for those implicated. 

“The DA will ensure that Judge Raymond Zondo’s findings … are implemented. South Africans deserve justice for the estimated R1-trillion looted through ANC corruption over the past decade and the subsequent decline of our country and its people in the shadow of political greed,” Steenhuisen said in a statement

The Inkatha Freedom Party lamented the blatant disregard for the Public Finance Management Act: “It is unacceptable for those appointed to finance-related roles or positions of oversight to plead ignorance of the key piece of legislation that regulates financial management of departments and entities.”

Anathi Madubela is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the M&G.