Zondo’s commission or state capture commission of inquiry was set up by the former South African President, Jacob Zuma, among other things, to investigate and make recommendations on the allegation of state capture, corruption and fraud in the Organs of State. During the commission proceedings, 278 witnesses showed up; 159,109 pages and one exabyte of data were collected as evidence. About five extensions were granted to the commission before finalising their reports. The report was designed to have a three-part report, with the first part published on January 4 2022. The second part of the three-part report was published on February 1, 2022. One significant thing about the submitted reports was that they were all handled transparently as it was published almost immediately it was handed over to the South Africa President, Cyril Ramaphosa. The reports so far being published showed that the nine years of Jacob Zuma’s rule was characterised by corruption, fraud and nepotism, as documented by BBC News. It was discovered that close allies of Zuma benefitted immensely from lucrative government-owned enterprises at the expense of eminently qualified personnel. Also, top officers were observed to have utmost disregard for the laws of the land during their rule. Findings further showed that damages were caused in the South Africa Airways and South African Revenue Service following the appointments of Dudu Myeni and Moyane as chairpersons of the company, respectively. The Airports Company South Africa was also not spared in this corrupt practice. The ungodly alliance with the Gupta brothers took centre stage during the inquiry. The billionaire Gupta brothers (Ajay, Atul and Rajesh) in 1993 had immigrated into South Africa from India to set up a family business. It was later found through investigation that their main aim for setting up the business was to amass wealth through political connections with the ruling ANC and Zuma. However, Zuma denied some of the allegations and claimed during his defence that the Gupta brothers were just mere friends and that it had nothing to do with corruption. After the first appearance, Zuma refused to appear again before the commission of inquiry even after a court ruling which was regarded as contempt of court and attracted a 15 months imprisonment sentence. This generated a lot of political unrest between 9th to 17th July 2021 especially in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, which degenerated into the destruction of lives and properties and looting on a large scale.
Lessons for the South Africans
On the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of ‘state capture’, there are critical lessons for all South Africans to learn, especially the masses. Many undeniable allegations have been unravelled, and this is expected to enhance and restructure the future of South Africa.
Damage to reputation: Some businesses/or business owners were linked to State Capture. Such businesses or owners of businesses may find it very difficult to redeem their images as many citizens may not associate with such enterprises again. Such moves may be a way of showing love and patriotism for their country. Had it been the business owners had distanced themselves from such nefarious activities, their integrity and that of their businesses wouldn’t have been in doubt. Some of the political gladiators implicated in the state capture may also find it difficult to win back the hearts of the masses in future engagement.
Patriotism: It is noteworthy that some South African Citizens demonstrated a patriotic status by assisting the commission of inquiry to actualise their mandate timeously. Most of them came forward as whistle-blowers. Some remained anonymous, while others entered into plea deals with the state. Most of their testimonies assisted the commission in exposing some of the knotty corrupt practices. With remarkable progress made by the commission through whistle-blowers, it further suggest that the country can overcome challenges if people with right attitude like the whistle-blower are willing to contribute their little quota to the development of the state by not covering up bad practices in our society.
Political party and loyalty to the state: The first part of the report from Zondo’s commission of inquiry showed that the party in power-ANC was indicted during the investigation. The report states: “ANC benefitted from the state enterprise’s corrupt practices, including SARS and SAA”. Some of the party leaders who are allies of Jacob Zuma benefitted immensely from ‘state capture’. It then suggests that not all political parties cared about the socioeconomic status of an average South African. Though many within the ANC, including President Ramaphosa were opposed to all the corrupt practices and were quick to handle the reports transparently, still, South Africans have a lot of lessons to learn about the self-centeredness of some of the political parties and their candidates.
Political leaders: South African also have a lot to learn about political leaders who are self-centred and have no interest of the masses at heart. The “state capture” under the former President Zuma affected the socioeconomic status of the masses as the state resources that could have benefitted the masses were “captured” by just a few. Also, the amount spent on Zondo’s commission of inquiry was about R 1 billion, which has not been spent on any investigation commission in recent times. This amount could have been invested into something more beneficial had it been the state was not “captured” to necessitate the commission of enquiry in the first place.
No sabotage against the state will go unpunished: With the level of investigation carried out by the commission of enquiry coupled with the recommendations, it showed that there is no sacred cow regarding nepotism and corrupt practices frauds against the state. For instance, some of the recommendations include: Myeni be charged with corruption and fraud, Kwinana be investigated by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountant, Moyane be charged with perjury for lying and providing false information to parliament, Brian Molefe and Collin Matjila facilitated Gupta corruption within Transnet and SAA respectively and should face criminal charges. All these showed that no one is above the law, and nemesis will still catch up with saboteurs no matter how long it takes.
Integrity: Another virtue worth learning by South Africans from Zondo’s commission report is the place of integrity in the ruling class. It has become glaring from the reports that many political elites place more premium on self-enrichment than integrity. Not everyone put forward by any political party should be accepted without doing a thorough investigation about the antecedents of such an individual. It is high time civil society groups and other relevant authorities did their independent findings about any candidate vying for any elective position and advice the populace accordingly.
In conclusion, the “state capture” inquiry reports have shown that there are more lessons to be learnt. The patient question is whether we are ready to make any meaning from the released reports. A lot of economic setbacks had occurred during the “state capture” period. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to ensure that the reports are not discarded but instead be wiser in our disposition when it is time to choose our political leaders.
Dr. Nneka Akwu is a researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She writes in her personal capacity