Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: ALON SKUY
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. Picture: ALON SKUY

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo cannot say if anyone has done anything specific to sabotage or hamper the work of the state capture commission of inquiry, but believes the delay in getting it off the ground has been due to issues of "inefficiency" and "incompetence".

Zondo announced on Friday that the commission would start its first public hearings on August 20 and that notices to some of the implicated individuals would be issued from Monday.

This means South Africans will get a glimpse into the anatomy of state capture in the run-up to the 2019 national elections. But the full findings of the inquiry will not be available before the polls if the commission takes at least two years to complete its work, as was expected.

The stakes are high as the commission will be looking into the malfeasance in which high-profile politicians including former president Jacob Zuma have been directly or indirectly implicated in a report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

The commission recently had to apply to the High Court in Pretoria for an extension of the period it had to complete its work, saying it would be unable to do this in the 180 days originally allocated for the task.

The high court granted the extension of 24 months, from March 31 2018, but this was subject to confirmation of the order in October.

Among the reasons Zondo cited in the application for the extension was that the State Security Agency (SSA) had not issued the commission’s investigators, and other possible employees, with the top-secret security clearance needed.

Speaking at a media briefing on Friday, Zondo said he would ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene on the matter.

He said Ramaphosa had previously indicated that if delays reached a level where his office should intervene, the commission should feel free to ask.

"I will be communicating with the president (that) the delays we have experienced with regards to the security clearances have reached a level where we must ask for your (Ramaphosa’s) intervention," Zondo said.

The judge said he was told that the delays were due to "staff changes within the SSA," as well as the requirement for investigators to have to top-secret clearance.

Zondo did not indicate what the staff changes were, but the most high-profile change was when former spy boss, Arthur Fraser, a known Zuma-ally, was moved to the position of national commissioner of correctional services in April. This was just before he was due to fight a court battle with the intelligence services watchdog after Fraser revoked Inspector-General of Intelligence Setlhomamaru Dintwe’s top-secret security clearance.

Asked if it was the remnants of political control by the SSA, as the agency was accused of fighting political battles especially under Fraser’s control and during Zuma’s terms in office, Zondo said he "won’t say anything like that, but we are keeping our eyes open. We are keeping our eyes open everywhere."

Zondo also said he did not believe there was anyone trying to control the commission, but that "nobody would succeed, even if they tried."

He said that if anyone made it difficult or impossible for the commission to do its work, he would raise the issue publicly.

The judge emphasised that the delays were caused by external factors, and not due to any internal issues in the commission.

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