'No indications that corruption is slowing down,' quips frustrated Zondo

Deputy chief justice left 'frustrated and concerned' after testimony about the looting of public funds

23 September 2020 - 15:52
Depuuty chief justice Raymond Zondo.
Depuuty chief justice Raymond Zondo.
Image: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele

State capture commission chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo is “frustrated and concerned” after testimonies from witnesses about how public funds meant for service delivery to the poor are being looted by politicians and their friends.

Zondo made the remarks on Wednesday before the adjournment of the hearing. It followed three days of evidence relating to a R1bn housing project in the Free State — a project littered with allegations of illegalities, and of payments being made for no work done.

Since Monday, Zondo heard from three witnesses about how more than R500m was paid out to suppliers and contractors by the Free State provincial government, under then premier Ace Magashule, without any complete low-cost housing on site.

The judge recalled evidence led at the commission previously about the same province during the state capture years, namely the asbestos eradication project and the as Vrede dairy farm.

What was particularly “concerning” to Zondo was that in all three projects — with a combined worth of R2bn — the intended beneficiaries were denied the services they so needed, while business people and politicians smiled all the way to the bank.

“It is quite concerning that a lot of money set aside for building houses for people seems to have ended up in the hands of suppliers and contractors, more than R500m I was told, and yet no houses were built,” said Zondo.

“It is very concerning because government is there to ensure people get services they need.

“A few weeks ago we heard evidence about the asbestos project. I heard evidence that the job could have been done for a cost of R21m but the [Free State] provincial government gave the job to a joint venture for more than R250m.

“There is very little if any work that the joint venture did. To make it worse, there was no removal of asbestos roofs, but just counting.

“Leave that aside, I have also heard evidence about Vrede dairy farm, which was meant to benefit black farmers to earn a living. There too, the people who were meant to be beneficiaries — I heard evidence that they never got anything, yet million and millions of rands were paid out.”

Zondo added that the testimony relating to Free State was probably the tip of an iceberg if other provincial governments were to be looked at.

However, owing to time constraints, his commission is not going to investigate other provincial governments. This is because Zondo has set December 2020 as the last month to hear oral evidence before compiling his report no later than March 2021.

“It [the evidence] does not necessarily meant Free State province was the worst because we have not heard others provinces and we will not because that kind of job needs years to do,” he said.

As a parting shot, Zondo expressed his concern that corruption in the country did not seem to be disappearing.

“This is something that troubles me quite a lot. It's most frustrating to hear what I hear in this commission, and there are no indications that it is slowing down.

“It seems there are people who do not care. They want their fair share out of corruption.” 

The inquiry hearings will continue on Friday, a day in which former multiple-portfolios MEC in the Free State, Mosebenzi Zwane, is expected to be grilled.

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