POLITICS

A Parliamentary Inquiry Into State Capture Is Our Best Option

The flood of revelations is overwhelming and has dwarfed the evidence obtained last year by Thuli Madonsela.

01/06/2017 09:14 SAST | Updated 01/06/2017 14:16 SAST

ANALYSIS

The flood of revelations about the influential and politically connected Gupta family's hold over President Jacob Zuma, government, state-owned enterprises and politicians is becoming overwhelming. Revelations form a leaked tranche of emails and other documents -- published by City Press, Sunday Times, News24 and now amaBhungane and Daily Maverick -- has engulfed the findings by the public protector in last year's State of Capture report.

Zuma has frustrated the findings of the report, which recommends the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry to be appointed by the chief justice. But the governing African National Congress decided at the last meeting of its national executive committee that it would support such an inquiry. However, there are no concrete plans to constitute such a probe.

The amount of evidence in the public domain now surpasses the body of evidence on which the public protector's report was based. There is clearly sufficient grounds for a range of authorities to launch investigations into the Guptas, state capture and large-scale corruption in government.

1. The Hawks

The Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation replaced the Scorpions, whose mandate was to investigate high-profile and complicated cases of fraud and corruption. The Hawks today is almost fatally compromised by politics, but in theory is the best placed body to delve into state capture and its consequences.

2. The Special Investigating Unit

The SIU operates under presidential proclamation and is tasked in determining how state resources are abused. It pursues civil rather than criminal matters but can be very effective in delving into how much was lost by the public purse.

3. The public protector

Its mandate is to investigate and make findings about the abuse of state resources. Unlike the SIU, however, it can investigate on own initiative. It also has powers of subpoena and can make findings about wrongdoing. The public protector enjoys the same status as a judge of the High Court.

4. A judicial commission of inquiry

The president has the authority to constitute a commission under the direction of a retired judge to investigate any matter, like the Seriti Commission into the arms procurement programme. Such a commission has the power of subpoena, but can only make recommendations to the president.

5. A parliamentary inquiry

Parliament has broad and vast powers to investigate state capture. It has the authority to establish a multi-party ad hoc committee to investigate everything from top to bottom. The Constitution gives it the right to "summon any person to appear before it to give evidence on oath or affirmation, or to produce documents".

Unfortunately options one to four are all false starts. The Hawks are compromised, the SIU and a judicial inquiry are both dependent on the Guptas (Zuma has to authorise investigations) while advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, the public protector, has shown absolutely no appetite to investigate the looting of the state.

Parliament seems our best shot and has shown a measure of independence recently, with the inquiry into the rot at the SABC the best example. Jackson Mthembu, the ANC's chief whip, is the key to such an investigation. If he has the political will and can subdue speaker Baleka Mbete, such an investigation is eminently possible.