President finally complies with court order
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has finally complied with a North Gauteng High Court judgment ordering him to extend the term of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture by 24 months.
On Wednesday, Ramaphosa amended the commission’s terms of reference with effect from November 29 to indicate that it must submit its final report and recommendations within a period of 24 months from March 1 this year.
The announcement follows commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s successful urgent high court application in July calling upon various persons, including Ramaphosa and Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane, political parties and other organisations, to show cause on October 2 why the period of 180 days should not be extended by 24 months from March 1.
At the time, Justice Zondo said he was hopeful that if the extension was confirmed, the commission would be able to really focus on its work without having to be concerned that in a few months’ time it might have to stop its work because the 180 days would be up.
The commission now has until March 2020 to complete its work.
At the high court, Justice Zondo said the commission intended to complete the hearing of evidence around August next year and thereafter dedicate the rest of the time to an analysis of the evidence and the preparation of its report.
Early in its public hearings, Justice Zondo cited the delay in issuing top-secret security clearances to commission staff as one of the reasons for its work being delayed.
The declassification of confidential state documents key in unravelling state capture has also been among the reasons for delays.
Its business of unpacking the nature and extent of state capture has been severely hampered and delayed by the unavailability of witnesses and implicated parties’ reluctance to appear before the commission.
This week, the commission had to postpone its hearings because of certain witnesses’ unavailability for the remainder of the year.
According to the commission, other witnesses have asked to testify early next year in order to cover more issues than they initially planned had they testified this week or the next.
It granted the witnesses’ requests and will resume its hearings next month.
Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac), yesterday told Independent Media that he hoped the commission would complete its work within the next 15 months.
Casac initially opposed Justice Zondo’s urgent application for an extension as it thought the commission wanted an additional 24 months, which would have made it 30 months.
However, Casac dropped its opposition after it was clarified that the commission wanted an additional 18 months.
Naidoo said the commission should ensure that its work did not drag on for too long and to ensure that it met the March 2020 deadline.