Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, chair of the state capture commission of inquiry, has dismissed a request by the EFF to remove former auditor general Terence Nombembe as lead investigator of the inquiry, IOL reported.
The EFF objected to Nombembe's appointment because when he was head of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica), he allegedly allowed the organisation to accept a R1.2-million donation from Trillian Capital.
The EFF's Julius Malema reportedly said Nombembe was therefore conflicted, as it was known at the time that Trillian was linked to the Guptas. But it later emerged that the money was donated to Saica's education fund, the Thuthuka Bursary Fund, in February 2017 and that it was returned to Trillian in July.
After receiving an official complaint from the EFF in March, Nombembe reportedly gave all parties the opportunity to make representations.
On Thursday, Zondo reportedly said that based on the facts presented to him, there was "no basis upon which Mr Nombembe can be criticised".
He reportedly said Nombembe was involved in the decision to return Trillian's money, after the allegations of their role in state capture became apparent.
"He should be commended for having been part of the decision. I cannot see why they would have based their objection to his appointment on this allegation ... if they knew that not only was the donation rejected and returned, but that Mr Nombembe was part of the decision to reject the donation. There is no proper basis for the objection," he reportedly said.
Zondo reportedly said that according to Nombembe, the allegations against Trillian first became public in April 2017, after the Trillian donation was received.
Justice Raymond Zondo says the R1.2m bursary donation made to SAICA through the Thuthuka Bursary Fund by Trillian Capital was returned hence Terrence Nombembe is cleared to head investigations at the #StateCapture Commission of Inquiry. #sabcnews pic.twitter.com/9GkK6UBhla— Bulelani Phillip (@BulelaniPhillip) April 12, 2018
But the EFF is still not happy. According to News24, after Zondo released his decision on Thursday, EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said Nombembe was more conflicted than the party had initially suspected, and questioned the fact that he had not initiated investigations into state capture as auditor general.
In a statement, the party questioned the fact that Nombembe had received a salary increase when it became known that his office was going to investigate the Nkandla matter.
In March, the party accused Saica itself of being captured, as it had not launched an investigation into auditing firms that allegedly played a role in facilitating state capture, TimesLive reported.
There were plenty of people who came to Nombembe's defence on social media. Among them were former government spokesperson Themba Maseko, who is expected to testify against the Guptas at the inquiry, and former Eskom board spokesperson Khulani Qoma.
Maseko was reportedly pushed out of his job when he defied an instruction from the Guptas.
In March, he tweeted:
Terrence Nombembe gets my vote anyday. He is one of the most upright, principled, honest and patriotic human being you'll ever meet. He is the best person for the job in the Zondo Commission.👍👍— Themba Maseko (@MasekoThembaJ) March 9, 2018
The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) also supported Nombembe.
On Thursday, Qoma tweeted:
Judge Zondo has dismissed EFF's objection against Nombembe to head investigations. Thanks Zondo for factually dismissing this baseless assault on one of the most talented blacks. Well this undue assault by a party that claims to represent blacks. Irony!— Khulani Qoma (@KhulaniQoma) April 12, 2018