Opinion

Zondo inquiry is more harrowing for witnesses than perpetrators, who are living comfortably abroad or will be back as MPs

17 March 2019 - 00:07

A former government official who is still to testify at the Zondo commission confided this week that he is questioning whether it was still worth doing so. Considering the avalanche of damning evidence that has been presented at the inquiry over the past seven months of public hearings, he says it is quite ridiculous that there is still scepticism about whether the state was captured.
Even more incredible is how the perpetrators of state capture are able to agitate society and demonise those giving evidence, without consequences.
They claim that the existence of state capture can only be determined once judge Raymond Zondo presents his final report - as if the crippled state institutions, the billions the Guptas and their cohorts drained from the fiscus, and intermittent power blackouts are not glaring enough evidence of the devastation of state capture.
It is very telling that after committing to clean up the state and listening to months of exhaustive testimony about the political rot, the ANC did not think it necessary to disqualify those who enabled and benefited from corruption from their election list. The ANC national election list looks like an opposition party campaign prank to display the worst side of the ANC.
How Mosebenzi Zwane, Faith Muthambi, Bathabile Dlamini, Nomvula Mokonyane, Malusi Gigaba, Tina Joemat-Pettersson and David Mahlobo passed any form of "vetting" is bizarre. The inclusion of the gallery of deplorables is like a homage to Jacob Zuma's "nine wasted years".
When former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene returned to the witness stand this week, Zondo asked him why so few former and current cabinet members and senior officials were coming forward to testify. Nene responded that other people might not be dictated by their conscience and could also be worried about the "price to pay".
In Nene's case, the price was very high.
He was the subject of an aggressive campaign to discredit him ahead of his testimony. His owning up to meetings with the Guptas cost him his job.
Nene told Zondo he opted to resign because he believed the office he occupied should be "beyond reproach". In contrast, many people on the ANC election list have a sense of entitlement to positions in parliament and government and could not care less about the shame they bring to the country.
Nene said he doubted many of his former colleagues would come to testify about their knowledge and involvement in state capture unless Zondo subpoenaed them.
Zondo is aware, we hope, that his commission can be turned into a mockery. People who cannot be bothered to come before him to testify abuse the inquiry to attack those who do and to wage political battles.
Representing dismissed South African Revenue Service boss Tom Moyane in his application to cross-examine Pravin Gordhan this week, EFF chair Dali Mpofu was unable to stipulate which parts of the evidence they disputed or to provide the judge with his client's alternative version. He used the platform to grandstand and to try to resurrect the discredited conspiracy theory of a rogue spy unit at the revenue service.
The Guptas have no intention of assisting the commission in its work or returning to the country unless they are able to gain control of the state again.
Duduzane Zuma proved to be a useful tool for them to get access to the state when his father was president.
On Friday he was used as a surrogate to try to discredit the evidence of Mcebisi Jonas because the Guptas were not allowed to cross-examine the former deputy finance minister.
In his evidence, Jonas did not implicate Zuma in the bribe that one of the Gupta brothers allegedly offered him, but for arranging the meeting. Zuma has previously been charged for the bribe but the charges were provisionally withdrawn.
Surely then it should have been Zuma's lawyer Piet Louw's primary mission to establish that his client did not offer a bribe to Jonas? But Louw did not question Jonas on this or anything else that purportedly happened in the Gupta house, including the offer of R600m and a promotion to finance minister.
Jonas's revelation of this blew the lid on state capture and triggered a turning point in the country's history. It is curious that Louw did not try to discredit Jonas's main evidence to the commission but harried him on inaccuracies in a timeline his lawyer, Max Boqwana, had provided to former public protector Thuli Madonsela.
He also questioned why Jonas did not report the Gupta brothers' threat to kill him to the police. Even now, it is not conducive, and somewhat pointless, to report corruption.
Zuma was in no way implicated in the death threat. It seems Louw's cross-examination was used to channel questions on behalf of the Guptas.
If Zondo is worried why more people are not coming forward, he needs to take into account that the inquiry is more harrowing for witnesses than the perpetrators. While some are living comfortable lives abroad, others are heading to parliament and possibly back into government.
What then will the commission ultimately achieve? Right now, it does not seem to be clear...

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