President Cyril Ramaphosa favoured us with another commission of inquiry this week. We now have these commissions coming out of our ears. It seems our president can’t help himself. He is, to resort to a cliché, the gift that keeps giving.

And spare a thought for the lawyers. Poor things. They’re making a killing.

There is nothing wrong with commissions. Exposing raw facts about wrongdoing or malfeasance can be a devastating political weapon. It can also help construct a narrative that is digestible to the public and makes for better decision-making by the government. It becomes a problem when commissions are seen as substitute for taking firm and immediate action.

And these things don’t come cheap. An infrastructure has to be created from scratch — office space, IT systems, secretaries, receptionists, security guards, cleaners, tea ladies, and lawyers and their hangers-on. Offering a ready-made infrastructure for our now ubiquitous commissions could be a lucrative business for some enterprising tenderpreneurs.

The commissions could end up tripping over each other though. We have the all-encompassing state capture commission under Raymond Zondo and the Nugent inquiry into the devastation at the South African Revenue Service (Sars). Last week Ramaphosa obliged with another, one that will investigate poor decisions and possible corruption at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) that could have cost the country billions. Bantu Holomisa, who has the bit between his teeth on this one, wants the government to even enlist Interpol. We are deficient in many things, but not ambition. He wants us to go global. If a commission of inquiry into Sars or the PIC, why not Eskom, where the destruction has been as devastating? One hopes, though, that such instruments won’t be a permanent fixture. The Zondo commission is set to sit for 24 months. That’s too long. A legal expert said this week he would have given Zondo three months, six at the most. That makes sense, they shouldn’t linger. A commission sho...

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