Dear Judge Zondo,
RE: State Capture Commission of Enquiry Hearings During Covid-19
We write to you as concerned members of the Civil Society Working Group on State Capture, which comprises more than twenty civil society organisations.
In February 2020, we presented an Agenda for Action to the Commission, which is based on detailed submissions made to the Zondo Commission by organisations of the Working Group, covering the widespread impact of state capture on lives of people in South Africa. The Agenda for Action summarises recommendations made by members of the Working Group with the aim of strengthening the Zondo Commission’s ability to make firm findings that lead to systemic reform in the struggle against corruption and state capture. This is in line with the mandate of the Working Group which is both to support and strengthen the work of the Zondo Commission while maintaining oversight over the Commission in the interests of the public.
The institution of the national lockdown in March 2020 has been disruptive to society and the economy. Members of the public and organisations have had to adapt and develop different ways of engaging with one another to ensure that their mandates and duties are fulfilled.
We commend the Commission on the work that it has completed to date. However, we note with great concern that since the enforcement of the lockdown, there has been minimal information shared by the Commission with the public about the steps that it has taken to continue with its work and activities. To illustrate, the website only contains a directive dated 16 April 2020 postponing appearances scheduled during the month of April 2020 until further notice.
Whilst we understand the position within which the Commission finds itself during this pandemic, it is of the utmost importance that the public is provided with regular updates as to when the hearings will resume. Currently, there is no information regarding how the Commission is making use of this time to meet its mandate, which is scheduled to come to an end in March 2021. We, therefore, urge the Commission to take the public into its confidence and provide regular updates on its work.
We also reiterate our earlier call for the urgent release of interim findings by the Commission based on the evidence it has received. We believe that an interim report with findings will help to facilitate accountability and strengthen the work of our law enforcement agencies.
The Working Group is concerned that the pandemic and lockdown may increase opportunities for powerful networks to abuse the state’s resources. The Commission’s work is of particular importance now when emergency procurement processes may present potential avenues for corruption, patronage and ongoing state capture.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted different sectors and institutions to adjust how they operate while paying heed to measures to flatten the infection curve. In this regard, we note that our courts and Parliament are successfully making use of virtual platforms to carry on with their duties during this period. In view of the limited time left for the Commission to complete its work, we suggest the following:
1. That the Commission releases an interim report with findings and recommendations;
2. That the Commission urgently reconvenes its hearings with the necessary health and safety precautions, as permitted by the Regulations made in terms of the Disaster Management Act, and completes its tasks within the given timeframes;
3. That the terms of reference or the rules of the Commission are adapted to include the use of virtual platforms for the hearings; or, now with Lockdown Level 3, exercise social distancing protocol and reduce audience participation whilst continuing with in person hearings;
4. That the Commission makes use of secure virtual platforms similar to those used by National Parliament and the courts which can be live-streamed or uploaded at a later stage on various platforms for ease of access by members of the public;
5. That information pertaining to the business of the Commission is regularly published on the Commission’s website in order to keep the public updated and instil public confidence; and
6. That regular updates are provided on the progress made by the Commission until the end of the hearings.
We note that the rules of the Commission allow for the suggestions recommended above. In particular, Rule 4 makes provision for the hearings to be held in public, while Rule 5.2 allows for the Chairperson of the Commission to direct that hearings are held at a venue different to that of the usual venue. In addition Rules 12 and 13 provide for the issuing of practice directions and amendments to any of the rules.
We are of the belief that the suggestions highlighted above are in the interest of openness, transparency and accountability for the public as afforded by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges in the way that various organisations conduct their work, there is a need to adapt in order to ensure that the work of the Commission is concluded timeously before the end of the granted extension.
In sum, given the importance of its work, we call on the Commission to provide regular public updates, without which we cannot measure the performance of the Commission and, where necessary, support its work. This includes the urgent release of an interim report to enable other sectors – for example state anti-corruption agencies – to work with its initial findings. Finally we believe it now urgent that the Commission reconvenes its hearings, as other institutions have successfully done, in view of the end of its mandate in less than a year.
We believe these steps are all imperative to the success of the Commission in exposing state capture networks that continue to present a fundamental challenge to the wellbeing of South Africa and those who live in it.
We would be grateful if your office could provide us with a written response within the next ten business days (9 June 2020).
This letter is endorsed by the following CSWG organisations:
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Centre for Change (CHC)
Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST)
Corruption Watch (CW)
Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC)
Dullah Omar Institute (DOI)
Equal Education (EE)
Equal Education Law Centre (EELC)
Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF)
Legal Resources Centre (LRC)
Open Secrets (OS)
Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)
Public Affairs Research Institute (PARI)
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
THE LETTER RAISES AN IMPORTANT ISSUE INDEED. HOWEVER, A SPECIAL TRIBUNAL HAS BEEN SET UP SPECIALLY TO RECOVER MONEYS LOOTED FROM THE STATE. THE TRIBUNAL HAS BEEN GIVEN THREE YEARS TO RECOVER THE MONEYS. THE TRIBUNAL WAS SET UP IN SEPTEMBER LAST YEAR. IT HAS TODATE HEREOF NOT FINALISED A SINGLE MATTER. LITIGANTS IN THAT TRIBUNAL ARE FRUSTRATED AT THE SNAIL PACE IN WHICH MATTERS ARE DEALT WITH. CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE INQUIRIES INTHIS REGARD IN THE INTEREST OF THE STATE.
Draft for public comment
South Africa Status Report post COVID19
* Assessment and review of the status affair of the administration that took over from an admin that has collapsed the state 1 year ago with promises. How far are we on those promises? The current admin came into power with no practical plan but bullet train dreams that are now becoming impossible to implement especial with the Covid19 pandemic results hanging over the shoulders of his cabinet. The hand over report to this admin was not looking good since there were many challenges at hand and no census report that would have assist in running the affairs of the state moving forward. After the selection of cabinet when he came into power, President Ramaphosa showed signed of weakness and that he was not in control but had to succumb to the party political squabbles of factionalism. To be honest, he will have to review and assess his progress report since he took over, what were the promises he has delivered since then? Does the nation have to wait another 4 years when it is becoming clear to him and those that he leads that he is not in charge but has to consult his party as it was the case by former presidents?
* The decision to go for a total lockdown and the establishment of NCC with disaster regulations for COVID19. The nation may have been behind the President when he came to address the nation to inform it we will be going for national lockdown from March 27, 2020. For the first month or so of lockdown, the nation had confidence on him and his NCC especially when he placed his party and all other parties on ice and the he and NCC were in charge. After the disappearing act that he made later, he then opened a can of worms and became vulnerable and was attacked from all directions. It was now the ANC spokesperson that was responding to media about the affairs of the state especially of one cabinet minister Dlamini Zuma and one was wondering where was this heading to? Now, everything is out of control. He would have used the opportunity to involve the opposition parties to do oversight as legislated by the supreme law. He should have allocated tasks to all MPs in promoting patriotism and looked at how they could have assisted instead of employing consultants who have taken the opportunity in squandering state coffers as it is the case in state capture.
* Status report on departments that went for paid up holiday for all civil servants during lockdown instead of taking advantage of the lockdown to screen all of these government employees. Civil servants could have been used to collect data on behalf of the state and could have used an opportunity to do door to door during the lockdown involving all departments for example on this national plan of action. This could have been used to assist and capacitated Statistics South Africa to gather the census data that the previous admin failed to collect. This door to door would have worked because the army was only seen galavanting the streets with no clear mandate of what they were doing since they could not take orders from Bheki Cele in enforcing these lockdown regulations. The state has several cases that it has to respond to of brutality and abuse by the law enforcement agencies and are losing cases with no actions taken against ministers who instructed the police and the army to do what they have been doing in our communities like in Alexandra for example. The door to door campaign could have assisted in identifying hijacked properties, illegal crime syndicates, human traffic victims, drug smuggling, illegal immigrants with no proper documentation to be in the country, influx of undocumented people into the health system, crime related operations that took over since 1994 and related matters. The door to door campaign could have helped in ensuring that all South African citizens are registered on national voter roll before they can access government grants and be channeled to be active citizens. This data could have helped his administration in updating the National population register for future plans of government blue print that can be used for future purposes. On the internal affairs, it would have help government to review all civil servants contracts and released all those who are only cheque collectors and have not been doing anything when reporting to work. It would have released all those law enforcement offices who are over weight and are no longer serving the purpose of what they were employed to do. This would have given young South Africans to be absorbed by the state instead of promoting a culture of sending young South Africans to become victims of drug smugglers and syndicates. This is a national disaster and needs an urgent attention by those who came to destroy our youth for them to take over.
* Why is there no actions against ministers who have flawed Covid19 regulations and became emotional and are now losing court battles since some of these actions are seen to be unconstitutional? Ministers in the past few months since this Covid19 have showed signs of being control freaks and have flawed the regulations that they were supposed to introduce, shape, protect and implement. This is a sign of incompetency on their side and should be released from their responsibilities as at times this is because of their age, ended up using their emotions instead of complying to their oath of office and now the state has to pay for damages that were created by the same ministers and no action has been taken so far. As a commended in chief, he has to make an assessment of all his cabinet ministers and make a drastic reshuffle and start by releasing pensioners, then all those who have transgressed their oath of office. He no longer has time but has to go back to the drawing board and review of a cabinet that will either implement his plans since the nation has entrusted him and those he appoints to run the country. He has the opportunity to select people from all political parties and stop prioritizing his party and select few cabinet ministers (a team of 15 competent patriotic individuals from all parties) that will ensure that they understand that South Africa comes first. This can be his interim structure that can look at implementing than waffling and showing up making promises that are not possible to implement. Any minister must ensure that, he/her has only a probation period to implement, failure to do so, the door should be the next exit.
* A miss opportunity by the President and his cabinet to use this time for nation building and patriotism purposes since he is aware that he took over from an admin that did not serve but looted state coffers. When he does a review from all Commissions of enquiries, it is clear that the state has lost and will co tinge to lose money and he needs to stop them and instruct every Commissioner to submit a report with recommendations moving forward. I will just take the State of Capture Commission as an example. CJ Zondo has done a lot of work in gathering information for this and has to close this Commission and make recommendations for Supreme Courts to establish Anti Corruption Units that will continue with the work of Corruptions done in the past. CJ Zondo can establish this structure and recruit new judges who must work with the prosecuting team, employ forensic investigators who will ensure that any case that goes into court has enough evidence for prosecution than what we see these days. How can we have prosecutors who will inform the judge that they will not oppose bail long before the court start as it became the case with Duduzane Zuma and now with the VBS case? CJ Zondo will have to go back and review these loop holes and assist in prosecuting all those who have looted state coffers. His age is not on his side, and might need time to spend with his grandchildren as well, but who has he prepared to take over him once he decide to retire? It was a miss opportunity for the president and his troops to have used this time to come back and report of the positive news and gains as the minister of health is doing during these last stages of Covid19. He would be coming back to the nation and reporting on plans that will revive the economy in the next 6 months since investors are fully behind team South Africa despite negative ratings. He would be delivering a practical blue print that his government will be implementing from August 2020 and how education department will implement a new calendar moving forward. He would be reporting on how countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique will move towards implementing free trade agreements as mandated by Agenda2073 goals. This would be a process of introducing how SADC will implement a single currency in 2025 and will be partnering with ECOWAS in pushing for a single African currency especially in pushing other regions to follow suit and report on how the deadline will be met before 2063.
* Leadership style did not rectify the mistakes done by his party but have placed the nation back to where it was before 2019NPE where the party is above the state.
* Confusing vision that is not clear as at times one does not know who is in control. Is it ministers, cabinet or president?
* A call for the president to dissolve cabinet with a new cabinet that has to include opposition parties into his new cabinet, or dissolve parliament and call for new elections. Since the nation is expected to go for Local Government Elections in 2021, he can move for these elections to be merged with National and Provincial Elections since it is expensive to run elections.
* New South Africa path, new vision