While the South African media is interpreting president Jacob Zuma’s announcement of a state capture inquiry as a sign of his capitulation, the devil may yet be found to be lurking in the detail.
This is according to Legalbrief legal expert , Pam Saxby, who said that a key sentence in the lengthy statement could be interpreted as a precursor of what is to come when the terms of reference of the commission are decided.
Zuma said he would appoint a commission of inquiry into allegations that the Gupta family was allowed to influence state decisions and that he would abide by a court ruling for the Chief Justice to select its leader.
The High Court in December rejected Zuma’s arguments that he alone can set up the commission and ordered him to pay the cost of the case. While the president has appealed the cost order and the judgment regarding the duties of the president to appoint commissions, he said in a statement on Tuesday he is taking further legal advice on this.
“I am concerned that this matter has occupied the public mind for some time now and deserves urgent attention,” Zuma said. “The allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa, is of paramount importance and are therefore deserving of finality and certainty.”
According to Saxby, “in saying ‘there should be no area of corruption and culprit that should be spared the extent of this commission of inquiry’, Zuma appears to have left the door open to an all-encompassing inquiry that could stretch back to corruption in the apartheid era”.
“Such broad terms would have the potential to bog down the inquiry, rendering it ineffective, but whether Zuma will emerge from this week’s ANC conference in East London with enough power to influence the terms of reference will be instructive,” she said.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela also pointed out that the commission of inquiry may only focus on state capture allegedly committed by the Zuma and Gupta families, reported News24.
“There is nothing under the sun stopping president Zuma or any president from initiating twenty judicial inquiries into state capture by white monopoly capital. But this one is specifically about the Gupta family, the president and his son,” said Madonsela.