State-capture inquiry first sitting on August 20 and may be extended to two years
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo says the commission will be led by the evidence and that the extension, if confirmed in October, is a great ‘relief’
The first hearings in the state-capture inquiry will be in August, while the first notices to implicated individuals will be sent out on Monday, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo announced on Friday.
"I am happy to announce that this commission will be sitting and have its first hearing on August 20. At this stage, we contemplate that the hearings will take no less than three weeks, but there is a chance they could take longer than that," Zondo said in a media briefing in Johannesburg on Friday. He said the first hearings could take up to six weeks.
Zondo said the commission would be guided by the evidence, and that there may be a break or adjournment in the proceedings, after which an announcement will be made about when the commission would be sitting again. He said there would probably be another hearing before the end of the year, which could continue early next year.
The state-capture inquiry was given an extension by the High Court in Pretoria to 24 months from March, as long as there are no objections to the commission. Zondo approached the court last week seeking the extension, which was granted on Monday. It is, however, subject to a confirmation that will be made on October 2 2018.
The High Court in Pretoria has called on various people, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and political parties to show cause why the 180 days should not be extended to 24 months, calculated from March 1.
Zondo said that although the extension was subject to confirmation it brought "relief" to the commission.
"If the extension is confirmed on October 2 we will be able to really focus on our work without having to be concerned that in a few months’ time the commission may have to stop its work because the 180 days will be up, which has been the case so far, particularly for many of the people appointed to assist the commission or to work for the commission, " he said earlier this week.
The Zondo commission of inquiry is looking into malfeasance in which high-profile politicians, including former president Jacob Zuma, have been implicated. Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, now public enterprises minister, has said the country is estimated to have lost R100bn through state capture.
The Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) have already acted against some suspects, with a number of Gupta associates and a family member appearing in court in relation to the Estina dairy project, while family patriarch Ajay Gupta is being sought by the Hawks.
Zuma’s son Duduzane is also facing corruption charges in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in connection with the alleged bribe offered to former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
In May, Zondo said the state-capture inquiry was likely to take two years to complete its work, one-and-a-half years more than the time allocated.
Previously, 180 days had been set aside for the commission to complete its investigations, hearings and final report, but after an assessment this was found to be impossible.