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'They must finish their work': Mboweni says no more cash for Zondo inquiry

24 February 2021 - 19:13 By thabo mokone
Finance minister Tito Mboweni says there will not be more cash for the extended state capture inquiry.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni says there will not be more cash for the extended state capture inquiry.
Image: Esa ALexander/Sunday Times

A hawkish National Treasury led by finance minister Tito Mboweni will not be allocating any new money to the Zondo commission of inquiry, despite its deadline being extended by three months.

The deadline for the inquiry into state capture, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, was extended by the Gauteng high court to the end of June after an urgent court application by Zondo.

Zondo, among other reasons, cited the effects of lockdown restrictions on the work of the commission and the need to call further witness, such as former president Jacob Zuma. Mboweni increased the budget of the commission by R63m in his medium-term budget in October when its deadline was extended to March 2021.

But now Mboweni says government has no more money to throw Zondo's way.

He said the Department of Justice and constitutional development might have no option but to cut some of its spending plans to finance the extended mandate of the commission.

“This perpetual extension of the inquiry into state capture is not really conducive. They must finish their work, in fact their work in my view is much less than the work that was done by the commission of inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation.

“The PIC commission of inquiry has concluded and this one just keeps going on and on, so it must end at some stage unless their DG has anything to say, I don't think I'm going to sign up on another tranche of cash to the state capture commission. They must finish their work.”

The commission has cost taxpayers more than R700m since it was instituted in 2018, with lawyers charging as much as R38,000 a day.

National Treasury DG Dondo Mogajane said the high legal fees the commission paid its lawyers needed to reviewed.

“There has to be reprioritisation within the Department of Justice. There are many things that need to be considered there: the cost of the commission itself, the cost of the lawyers, the daily remuneration costs ... are things that must be considered.

“We'll help the department to reprioritise from within and not by us giving ... resources to the commission.”