29/05/2017 18:49 SAST | Updated 30/05/2017 07:58 SAST

Zuma's Judicial Inquiry Into State Capture Could Be A Whitewash Like The Arms Deal

“Zuma is entitled to appoint a judge of his choice and negotiate the terms of the inquiry."

The ANC's rigidity in support of President Jacob Zuma negotiating the terms of a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture may result in a whitewashed report similar to that of the Arms Deal.

The African National Congress wants a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture established without delay.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the proposal was made by President Jacob Zuma when he delivered the political report to the party's National Executive Committee (NEC). The party said it also wanted a review of the Public Protector's findings.

"The terms of reference of such a commission of inquiry must be broad enough to uncover the influence of business on the state," Mantashe said.

Although the ANC called for the process of establishing a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture to be "accelerated", they remain steadfast on their position that Zuma should appoint a judge to preside over it.

Legal expert James Grant said a clear bias in structuring the terms of the inquiry may result in skewed findings. But he said Zuma is just doing what the law prescribes.

The last time Zuma had a hand in appointing a presiding judge over an important judicial commission of enquiry was for the Arms Deal. The final report was described by political commentators as a whitewash that acquitted government of any wrongdoing. It was mocked widely for the incorrect handling of witnesses and the exclusion of important documentation.

Zuma was accused of receiving bribes in the range of R500,000 a year bribe from French arms company, Thales in exchange for political protection in the arms deal probe as well as in the hope of securing future business.

Grant said essentially, Zuma, in the inquiry into the Arms Deal and now into State Capture, is doing exactly what the law allows him to do.

"Zuma is entitled to appoint a judge of his choice and negotiate the terms of the inquiry. I don't see another way around it. This shows how desperately we need to amend our constitution. Zuma has managed to delay his 783 criminal charges for almost 10 years, he dodged the Arms Deal debacle and is seemingly using the same tactic now," Grant said.

ANC wants Zuma to establish the inquiry
More recently, former public protector Thuli Madonsela, in the recommendations of her State of Capture report, said the judicial commission of inquiry should be presided over by a judge selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.

But it seems the ANC will not budge and their intentions were made clear after reporting back on the outcomes of their National Executive Committee meeting at the weekend.

At a media briefing on Monday, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said an investigation into state capture should be tabled "without delay", but it must expand on Madonsela's report in attempts to uncover the general influence of businesses on the State.

Mantashe said the inquiry should track all the way back to 1994.

"The NEC expressed its desire to see all processes of reviewing the Public Protector's State of Capture report accelerated so that they are not an obstacle to the speedy establishment of the Judicial Commission into State Capture," he said.

Answering questions after his speech, Mantashe said the NEC agreed Zuma should establish the inquiry. He said their interests are not only to justify the findings of the state capture report, but also to understand the depth of business' influence on Cabinet.

"If I'm captured by somebody else other than the Guptas, I'm not better off than people captured by the Guptas. Let's drill deep and understand the influence of businesses on the ANC. It will go beyond the scope of the public protector's report."

Mantashe said asking the Chief Justice to appoint a judge to preside over the inquiry would be tampering with the Constitution.

"We are a constitutional state. What does the Constitution say? Should it be because we are suspicious of the incumbent that we should tamper with the constitution?" he asked.

The Constitution makes provisions for the President to choose what type of a commission of inquiry should be established and who should preside over it.

Vote in line with the ANC or else...
Discussing the motion of no confidence in Zuma tabled at the meeting, Mantashe said whether a secret ballot is granted by the court or not, ANC MPs are expected to vote in line with the decision of the party's caucus.

He said those who fail to do so will be in violation of the party's constitution and will be seen as acting in collaboration with "counter-revolutionary forces".

"A number of members of the NEC were of the view that the ANC should listen to this call. Various contributions in support of and against the appeal to President to step down were raised. Many more were neither in favor nor against the appeal but emphasized the need for unity within the organization," Mantashe said.

He said some calls for Zuma's axing, especially those made by the opposition, are not so much about removing the president but rather dislodging the ANC itself from power.

"The NEC concluded the matter by recommitting itself to focus on the task at hand and what our people expect from us. Implementing, refining and advancing policies that solve their problems of inequality, poverty and unemployment as we move towards the National Policy Conference."

The NEC also discussed the downgrade and gender-based violence.