For a waiting nation, it's taking a long time for the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to get going — it's been at work for about 60 days, and there's no juice or justice yet. You will have to wait a little longer, we're afraid. Hearings are only likely to start in August.
On Thursday, the commission announced it has a home (16 and 17 Empire Road in Johannesburg), a website, and a phone number (010 214 0651 from within South Africa). Next week, you get your turn: public notices will go out to those who want to make representations to the commission.
Interviews with witnesses will start next week. The public has huge interest in this commission and its work.
"Interviews with witnesses will start next week. The public has huge interest in this commission and its work," said deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who added that he was often stopped by ordinary people who are keen to know when the investigation will get into gear. Zondo chairs the commission of inquiry.
While President Cyril Ramaphosa has given the commission 180 days to complete its work, Zondo said his team's back-of-envelope calculations show they will need 18 months to two years to get to the bottom of the grand corruption that has afflicted South Africa for a decade.
South Africa will hold its first hearings into state capture by a judicial commission of inquiry in August, says deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. pic.twitter.com/hwkj5JbFsM— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) May 24, 2018
Why is it taking so long? Head of investigations Terence Nombembe said he had been hunting for the country's top investigators to join his team. They only signed contracts this week, and the team's still not at full complement. The commission's head of legal, Paul Pretorius, said the commissioners had to sort information into sequence and themes, and plan the investigation properly so it makes sense to the public and for posterity.
#StateCaptureInquiry: The commission's investigations head, Terrence Nombembe, says this is a highly complicated project. He says the thoroughness of the process must be respected. They had to dot all the lines. (@iavanpijoos)— Team News24 (@TeamNews24) May 24, 2018
South Africa is a festival of accountability — with inquiries ongoing at Parliament, in various government departments and at the level of state-owned enterprises. Zondo said his team had gathered information from all these inquiries. In addition, there are investigations and prosecutions ongoing by the National Prosecuting Authority's asset forfeiture unit. The most prominent is the Estina dairy project in which the Gupta family, in collusion with government officials, allegedly stole millions meant for black dairy farmers. The commission of inquiry will build on this work and not replicate it.
"We're happy with information we are getting from government departments and state agencies," said Zondo, who added that it was important to build on the work of other inquiries and investigations. One of the reasons for the delay in getting the commission of inquiry revved up was in how to build confidentiality into the funding model with respect to two things: the identity of the investigators and maintaining the anonymity of informers. This has now been resolved.
If you have information for the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, you can submit it at the offices at 17 Empire Road, Johannesburg, or via the website.