It seems not even the governing party anticipated the deeper questions the commission will probe. If the commission follows the path that Pretorius spelled out, some serious questions will be posed about the ANC’s leadership abilities and accountability processes.

The weakening of government and repurposing of the state happened on the ANC’s watch, and the alarm bells had been ringing for years without any intervention from the party.

But the ANC seems to have a narrow reading of the purpose of the inquiry.

In a statement on Monday, the ANC said the commission would assist “to ensure that where wrongdoing was done, appropriate action is taken and people are held accountable”.

“Has the democratic project envisaged by our constitution been derailed?” The head of the state capture commission’s legal team, advocate Paul Pretorius, raised this question in his presentation at the start of public hearings on Monday. He said this was the broader question signified by the terms of reference defining the work of the inquiry. If the democratic project was derailed, the commission needed to answer whether it could be put back on track, and how, said Pretorius. That is a tall order for a commission that has to wade through a mountain of evidence, examine numerous reports on investigations already conducted into state capture, interrogate a former president on the possible breach of his oath of office, and find a way to drag the fugitive Gupta family back to the country to answer the allegations against them.For many South Africans observing the commission, the concern is whether this inquiry will lead to people being held to account for the mass plunder of the state....

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