Mail & Guardian
Zondo: Ten unanswered questions
The hearings are over, but mysteries abound over Guptas, spies, Transnet, Prasa and Eskom’s coal...
Here are 10 questions that arose but were not answered during the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, which has wrapped up hearing testimony.
1. Who were the judges on the State Security Agency (SSA) payroll?
During his testimony, then-acting SSA director general Loyisa Jafta told the commission there was “very strong circumstantial evidence some of the money went into the hands of members or a member of the judiciary” who were paid to favour former president Jacob Zuma.
An SSA agent known by the cover name “Steven” submitted an affidavit that he was introduced to two judges by former SSA minister David Mahlobo who were to use their influence in the investigation into the alleged jamming of cell phone signals in Parliament.
This was denied by Mahlobo, who claimed that the allegations were aimed at smearing the judiciary.
Neither of the judges was called to give evidence about their alleged capture by the SSA.
2. Who were the journalists on the SSA payroll?
In January 2021, Witness K, an SSA employee, gave evidence that R20-million was paid to African News Agency journalists to write positive news about Zuma and the country as part of a so-called Project Wave.
A second secret witness from the SSA, Witness Y, gave evidence in a statement that a number of other individuals in the media had been paid to write positively about the former head of state.
It is understood that three people were issued with Section 33 notices informing them that they had been implicated in testimony.
However, they were never called to testify or face questions.
3. What was former president Jacob Zuma’s role in state capture?
Over the three years of testimony, a wide range of witnesses gave evidence of Zuma’s role in the state capture project, from introducing them to the Gupta brothers to making appointments to state-owned enterprises (SOES) in order that such entities became cash cows.
Zuma was set to give evidence before the commission over five days during July 2019.
On the third day, his counsel at the time, Muzi Sikhakhane SC, claimed that he had been invited to give evidence under “false pretences” after days of objecting to questions from evidence leader Paul Pretorius. Zuma’s testimony was abandoned. An agreement was secured that Zuma would be provided advance detail of the areas and issues on which he would be questioned at his next appearance.
However, in November 2020, Zuma walked out of the Zondo commission without permission — never to return — after his application to have the deputy chief justice recuse himself was turned down.
4. Was it Gavin Watson or Angelo Agrizzi who was the mastermind of the capture of members of parliament, ministers and senior civil servants?
Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi gave dramatic — and extensive — evidence during January 2019 in which he outlined grand corruption on the part of the facilities company now known as African Global Operations.
Agrizzi blamed the bribery and corruption on Bosasa boss Gavin Watson, who he said was the architect of the plan to capture a network of MPS and government ministers through unlawful payments and other benefits.
Watson was never to testify. He died in August 2019 when the car he was driving crashed into a pillar at the OR Tambo International Airport.
5. What was the role of the Gupta brothers in appointing government ministers and SOE executives?
Two days after Jacob Zuma stepped down as head of state after being recalled by the ANC, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta, along with their families, fled South Africa for Dubai, leaving behind the notorious Saxonwold compound at which their alleged creation of a shadow government took place.
As a result, the brothers were already out of the country when the Zondo commission began its hearings in August 2018 and the evidence of their role in appointing cabinet ministers, senior civil servants and board members at SOES.
Despite the subsequent issuing of Interpol red notices and the institution of extradition proceedings by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the brothers have not returned to South Africa to explain their role and that of their company, Oakbay Investments, in the plunder of state coffers, either before Zondo or the courts.
6. Was cash doled out to ministers and SOE executives by the Gupta family?
The commission has heard a wealth of allegations, and denials, that former cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba, Eskom’s Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh and others received lavish cash handouts from the Gupta brothers, and left their Saxonwold home with bags of money. Singh failed to explain to the commission why he kept cash in four safety deposit boxes a short drive from the family’s house.
The fallen executives and ministers were implicated by their former drivers. The allegations extended to former Transnet executive Siyabonga Gama, with a driver identified only as Witness Two testifying that he collected R1-million in cash from Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa, then drove Gama to a friend’s home in Bryanston where they split the money between them.
In Gigaba’s case, his estranged wife added to the allegations, telling the commission often after the couple had been to Saxonwold they would proceed to Sandton City where her husband would order bespoke suits and pay with money taken from a bag in the back of his car.
In some of the more colourful testimony the inquiry has seen, Nomachule “Norma” Mngoma also spoke of a cash-dispensing machine at the family’s home. Her husband denied ever seeing one.
7. What instigated the infamous meeting at Zuma’s Durban home where the suspension of Eskom executives was ordered?
The meeting, on 8 March 2015, saw orders to sideline four key executives, and paved the way for Singh and Molefe to be seconded from Transnet to the troubled power utility. The meeting was hosted by Zuma’s confidante Dudu Myeni who mooted the suspension of the four. The commission has not established Zuma’s role in the events, or identified who gave the instructions. Was it the Gupta brothers, as Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi hinted when he told the commission he did not believe it had heard from “the real architects yet”?
8. Why did the Eskom board rush to approve an advance payment for coal to Tegeta Exploration?
On the testimony of former director Pat Naidoo, the board did not know, when agreeing to the R1.68-billion payment on 9 December 2015 for coal from the Optimum mine, that it was changing hands from Glencore to Tegeta. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo seemed incredulous.
Singh the next day converted the payment to a guarantee.
The commission has been trying for years to establish the extent to which Eskom, its executives and directors came under pressure from politically connected people to benefit Tegeta, the coal mining venture of the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma.
The answer remains unclear.
9. Why did the ANC’S deployment committee, under then-deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, allow itself to be bypassed when dubious appointments were made?
Testifying before the commission in April, Ramaphosa said the deployment committee was not consulted when it came to key deployments at SOES, including those of Molefe and Singh at Transnet, and Daniel Mantsha at Denel. The same applied to the appointment of Berning Ntlemeza to head the Hawks and Shaun Abrahams the NPA.
He suggested that Zuma acknowledged as much and offered a “mea culpa”. Why did the committee allow this? The question was put to the president by evidence leader Paul Pretorius, but the answer was evasive. Ramaphosa said he would have expected ministers to approach the committee with a list of names in these instances. Were there more instances where the committee was left out of the loop?
10. Why did Popo Molefe receive no support?
This is arguably a lesser, but still crucial question. The former chairperson of the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa testified not only that Zuma sought to reimpose Lucky Montana as chief executive but that when he sought the help of the socalled good people in the ANC, they turned a deaf ear. Why was he not granted a hearing and appropriate support when the then-deputy president said he sought to stop the rot from within?