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Three wasted years or a job well done? SA weighs in on Zondo commission winding down

16 August 2021 - 12:00 By cebelihle bhengu
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Zondo commission last week.
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Zondo commission last week.
Image: REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

There are mixed reactions to the work done by the state capture commission of inquiry since it was established three years ago. 

The commission had officially concluded scheduled oral testimonies with the evidence of President Cyril Ramaphosa last week, but inquiry chair deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo has stated that they might call a few more people if absolutely necessary

Ramaphosa's evidence included events at Transnet, the capture of the State Security Agency, the involvement of the Guptas in the executive and the alleged “complicity” of government members who did not act against state capture. 

“Some of the battles that one got involved in are those that are not known. They are not apparent,” said Ramaphosa in his defence.

He commended the establishment of the commission, saying the evidence brought before it helped shed light on corruption.

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa thanked the whistle-blowers who took a stand against corruption.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to the many individuals, some of whom remain unknown, whose actions led to the establishment of the commission in the first place. These are the people who unearthed these alleged criminal acts, who resisted, who spoke out and who took up campaigns — both public and behind the scenes — to end state capture. It is thanks to them that we now speak of state capture in the past tense,” he said.

He said the fight against corruption continued beyond state capture.

“While we can say that the era of state capture is over, we have not defeated corruption. Fraud and corruption remains pervasive and deeply entrenched in both the public and private sectors. Although it may not be on the scale of state capture, such criminal activities cost our country greatly, weaken our institutions and deprive South Africans of many basic needs.”

Were the extensions all worth it?

Zondo applied for the extension of the hearings on numerous occasions, with the last one being in June, when he asked for a three-month extension from July to September. TimesLIVE reported at the time that R1bn had been spent on the commission. 

This drew outcry from the public who said the commission was starting to resemble government-owned companies who often need bailouts. 

In a poll done by TimesLIVE in May, asking whether the commission had done enough to lift the lid on corruption allegations, 49% responded positively, while 28% said the commission needed to uncover more corruption. 23% lamented that the money spent on the commission was too much.

On social media, some have praised Zondo and the inquiry's investigators for exposing alleged corruption that collapsed state-owned enterprises. For others, however, the commission of inquiry has been a “waste of taxpayers' resources”.