All set: Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who is leading the commission of inquiry into state capture by the Gupta family, has lined up his first witnesses for the first hearings this week. Picture: SUPPLIED
All set: Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, who is leading the commission of inquiry into state capture by the Gupta family, has lined up his first witnesses for the first hearings this week. Picture: SUPPLIED

The long-awaited state capture inquiry starts its first hearings this week, with the first group of witnesses to testify expected to include former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor.

The list of witnesses announced on Friday is an indication that the commission will first deal with the influence of the controversial Gupta family on the appointment of ministers and boards of state-owned entities under the administration of former president Jacob Zuma.

Despite the commission’s start, the impasse with the State Security Agency (SSA) over security clearance for some of its investigators has not been sorted out. The commission, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, has been delayed for months, to the point where it had to apply to the high court for an extension on the time it has to do its work. This was granted, subject to confirmation by the court in October.

Zondo said in the application that the SSA had not issued the commission’s investigators and other possible employees with the top-secret security clearance needed and he would ask President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene. On Sunday, in response to e-mailed questions, commission secretary Dr Khotso de Wee said the SSA "has not changed how it is dealing with the security clearance process since the chairperson wrote to the president at the beginning of August and asked for his intervention". He had not been contacted by the SSA to give him feedback since the last media briefing towards the end of July. "The issue remains unresolved and is unacceptably delaying the work of the commission," De Wee said.

SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said that out of the 77 cases received, 98% of requests for provisional clearances had been dealt with. "We are busy with upgrades and recent cases … we are experiencing challenges from some of the people we are dealing with, some [are] not taking this exercise seriously and make lots of excuses, thereby hindering the pace," Dube said. He said the SSA remained committed to helping the commission fulfil its mandate.

Both Jonas and Mentor have said they were offered ministerial positions by the Guptas. Other witnesses will include veteran Treasury staffer Willie Mathebula, former Government Communication and Information System head Themba Maseko and Phumla Williams, his deputy.

The commission will look into the malfeasance in which high-profile politicians, including Zuma, have been directly or indirectly implicated, according to a report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

The commission said on Friday there are other witnesses the legal team is in the process of identifying or consulting, but it did not mention names.

However, the Sunday Times reported that Zuma has been invited by the commission to answer in person to allegations that he directly facilitated favours for the Guptas to help the family get government business. The commission did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

The commission of inquiry into state capture will begin on August 20 2018. Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko and Tiso Blackstar Group associate editor of analysis Ranjeni Munusamy take us back to the beginning and discuss how the State Capture story unfolded. Music: Turn On - RW Smith https://youtu.be/EzIBvLO8V9s Subscribe to TimesLIVE here: https://www.youtube.com/user/TimesLive