Ramaphosa won't act against Fraser and Mahlobo without the 'full picture'

Despite allegations against them, president will wait for Zondo inquiry report

12 August 2021 - 14:48 By mawande amashabalala
President Cyril Ramaphosa giving evidence at the state capture inquiry.
President Cyril Ramaphosa giving evidence at the state capture inquiry.
Image: Elmond Jiyane/GCIS

The state capture inquiry report will be the only “final guide” that President Cyril Ramaphosa will use to determine who the perpetrators of state capture wrongdoings are who deserve to be let go from the government and its institutions.

Even if the report, which is yet to be finalised, is, as expected, taken on judicial review and thus muddying the waters, Ramaphosa is happy to keep the likes of former spy boss Arthur Fraser and ex-intelligence minister David Mahlobo, until he has seen the inquiry's report and weighed it up.

Ramaphosa told this to the Zondo commission of inquiry during his final appearance on Thursday.

He faced a grilling on the collapse of the State Security Agency (SSA) during the presidency of Jacob Zuma, when he was second in command of the country.

Among those accused as leading enablers of the collapse, at least according to the high-level review panel appointed by Ramaphosa in 2018, were Fraser and Mahlobo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa continued his cross examination before the state capture commission on August 12 2021.

Fraser was the last spy boss under Zuma at the Union Buildings, while Mahlobo was the political principal for the SSA between 2014 and 2017.

In addition to their implication in the high-level review panel report, the duo have further been fingered by several witnesses who have appeared at the Zondo inquiry since its inception.

Mahlobo is now deputy minister of water and sanitation, while Fraser is the administration boss of prisons in the country, both appointed by Ramaphosa.  

Head of the commission's evidence leaders Paul Pretorius SC said it was puzzling for Ramaphosa, of “clean up” fame, to have somehow elected not to touch Mahlobo and Fraser, even when a report of a structure he commissioned placed them at the crime scene.

Pretorius fired the first question on Mahlobo: “Would he be the person, with that series of allegations concerning him in the public domain, to be appointed deputy minister in May 2019 despite the findings against him?”

Ramaphosa replied: “Much of what the commission is doing and will make findings will be, in my view, the final guide on how we will be able to to deal with persons and in this regard I want to wait for the commission report.”

Pretorius pressed him, arguing that the central question was why did Ramaphosa appoint Mahlobo and Fraser in the first place despite their alleged role in the pillaging of state security.

Ramaphosa stuck to his guns, saying the inquiry report would guide him on how to handle Mahlobo and Fraser.

“I have been waiting for a more full and complete picture, which this commission is going to assist me with, to make a fuller determination. In a way, whether my judgment is found to be flawed or not, I decided to wait for this process [the state capture inquiry] to complete.” 

Acting chief justice Raymond Zondo, who will pen the report and hand it over to Ramaphosa, joined the fray.

“There will be review proceedings [of my report] and I will not be surprised that even before the commission has finished its work, papers are being drawn to take some of the findings it will make on review. In that case, people might say, 'Mr President, you must wait until the outcome of the review process,'” said Zondo.

“You ought to be alive to a situation where you could end up with no action taken for a number of years because some people will be believing nothing should be done until review and appeal processes have been exhausted.” 

Ramaphosa repeated for the third time that the commission report would determine what course of action to take.