Civil Society Working Group on State Capture
Media Statement 23 July 2019
Civil society calls on Judge Zondo- No special treatment for bullies!
Member organisations of the Civil Society Working Group on State Capture call on the Zondo Commission to more robustly uphold the principle of equality before the law. It would be in the public’s interest for the Commission to use its full power to compel witnesses to present evidence and to truthfully answer questions on record. Participation in the Commission should not be based upon negotiation between powerful business and political actors implicated in state capture, such as former President Jacob Zuma.
It is apparent from last week’s hearings that Jacob Zuma has successfully delayed the work of the Commission. This was made evident in over three days of testimony in which the former president did not meaningfully assist the Commission in its work. We are deeply concerned with the compromise struck on Friday 19 July in chambers to enable Jacob Zuma’s participation in the Commission. Providing him with an outline of the focus areas he will be questioned on may give this witness an unprecedented advantage and this has the potential to further drag out proceedings.
Jacob Zuma has used the Zondo Commission to present himself as a victim of political machinations and foreign and domestic spies. He has deliberately avoided evidence-based questions through feigning memory loss, demeaning the work of the Commission and threatening to withdraw from the process. His conduct is reminiscent of the Stalingrad strategy he used to great effect for many years to avoid accountability.
The Commissions Act empowers Judge Zondo to compel individuals to give testimony and evidence before it. It also empowers the evidence leaders to examine all witnesses in the public interest. The Act protects witnesses from criminal liability through self-incrimination, but it equally empowers the Commission to hold witnesses criminally liable if they give false evidence or refuse to comply with the process.
The decision by the Zondo Commission not to hold former President Jacob Zuma to account risks setting a negative precedent. Other perpetrators called to appear, including CEO’s of large banks, law firms, auditing firms and politicians, could now demand similar advantages, threatening the objectivity of the Commission and thereby playing into the hands of the powerful.
We call on the Zondo Commission to desist from the practice of inviting parties to the Commission and rather use the subpoena powers that it possesses when engaging all witnesses. The consequences of state capture are dire and felt by millions of people for whom poverty was deepened by this cabal of corrupt elites in the private and public sector. It is crucial that the Zondo Commission now exposes evidence of these crimes so that other state intuitions can hold them to account.
Endorsed by the following members of the Civil Society Working Group on State Capture:
Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC)
Centre for Change
Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST)
Corruption Watch UK
My Vote Counts (MVC)
Organisation for Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)
Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
The Right2Know Campaign (R2K)
For comment/inquiries please contact:
Naushina (Open Secrets)
Zen (Open Secrets)