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

The state capture commission of inquiry is hoping to resume its public hearings by the first week of July as it tries to complete its work in the next nine months, deputy chief Justice Raymond Zondo said on Wednesday, 

The commission’s public hearings, meant to establish the extent of state capture during the Jacob Zuma presidency, were halted when the government ordered a national lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In February, the high court extended the time the commission had to complete its work to March 31 2021, saying it was doing so for the last time.

As the final deadline approaches, it is clear that Zondo still has a lot of mountains to climb before the final report and its recommendations land on President Cyril Ramaphosa's desk.

Zondo said when hearings resumed, the commission would deal with what he called phase two of issues about state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The commission has already heard evidence relating to the decimation of some SOEs such as Eskom, Transnet, SAA, and the Passenger Rail Agency of SA.

After this, the commission would deal with matters that came up in former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s state capture report, which led to the inquiry being established.

Zondo said those matters revolved around the Gupta family and their entities. The Guptas along with Zuma were alleged to be at the heart of state capture.

The controversial family has refused to return to SA and appear before the commission. Zuma has already appeared before Zondo, and is expected to return at a later date. His second appearance was postponed due to health issues.  

Ramaphosa is also expected to appear before the commission.

Before resuming public hearings, Zondo said there were some issues around lockdown regulations that needed to be sorted out, such as whether witnesses would be allowed to travel from another province to appear before the commission.

The deputy chief justice said he would prefer the public hearings to continue in person as they did before, except that the commission would limit the number of people allowed to attend and ensure all health measures were in place.

However, he did not exclude the possibility of doing public hearings virtually but said he would need to apply his mind properly to that, if need be.

Despite not holding public hearings for the past two months, Zondo said that he and the commission’s team had done much work. The deputy chief justice said the commission would conduct its public hearings a little differently to the way it had in 2018 and 2019.

Witnesses would no longer be taken through their affidavits at the hearing. This would be done before the time by the legal team and a transcript would be handed over to Zondo to read before the witness appeared at the commission to be questioned, but only on certain important issues. The transcripts would also be made publicly available, he said.

Zondo said that would allow the commission to hear more witnesses per day.

Some witnesses would also not be required to appear before the commission after submitting an affidavit, if nothing controversial were to be found in the document.

Zondo said that by having fewer public hearings, it allowed him to do more behind-the-scenes work and provide support to the legal and investigation teams, which he did not have time to do before.

He said the commission’s team would work hard to try to finish its work in the time frame set by the court.

“We want to finish. The will and determination is there,” Zondo said.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za