Will Zuma call it quits?

Cape Town – Former South African public protector Thuli Madonsela says deputy chief justice Ray Zondo’s commission of inquiry may only focus on state capture allegedly committed by the Zuma and Gupta families.

Madonsela spoke to News24 after President Jacob Zuma’s announcement of the establishment of the Zondo Commission on Tuesday evening.

On the eve of a crucial meeting of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) in East London, Zuma announced the establishment of the long-awaited commission of inquiry into state capture, saying “the matter cannot wait any longer”.

Secretary-general Ace Magashule said the only item on the NEC agenda was the 8 January statement. There had been speculation that the NEC would discuss Zuma’s future, but Magashule said this was not on the agenda.

Zuma’s term doesn’t officially end until 2019 when national elections will be held, but he could be removed early through a motion of no confidence in Parliament or by the NEC.

Madonsela said: “I welcome the president’s announcement. It is two years too late, if you look at when the first whistle-blowing happened, and more than a year after I had asked him to establish a commission. But better late than never.”

She said although evidence may have been compromised, the situation “can still be salvaged”.

Zondo will be able to appoint his own staff to the commission, who will have powers of investigation no less than those of the public protector.

Madonsela says she was encouraged by Zuma’s reference to parts of her investigation that she was unable to finalise due to a lack of resources In his announcement, Zuma said: “I am also mindful of the concerns raised by the public protector in her report, wherein she lamented the lack of resources to conduct a wider inquiry into this matter. “Accordingly, by making more resources available, it is my sincere hope that the commission will be able to reach many of those areas of concern that may not have been reached by the public protector’s investigation, but form part of what she might have investigated, had she had sufficient resources to do so.”

Madonsela said her understanding was quite clear about what the terms of reference of the commission should be.

“What has to be investigated is what my (probe) was investigating. There is no room to expand the commission to include what was never investigated.

Asked whether this meant Zondo was not able to include allegations of state capture prior to 1994 in his investigation, Madonsela responded in the affirmative.

“There is nothing under the sun stopping president Zuma or any president from initiating twenty judicial inquiries into state capture by white monopoly capital. But this one is specifically about the Gupta family, the president and his son.”

At the beginning of her report, Madonsela’s investigation was summarised as follows: “This report relates to an investigation into complaints of alleged improper and unethical conduct by the president and other state functionaries relating to alleged improper relationships and involvement of the Gupta family in the removal and appointment of ministers and directors of State Owned Entities (SOEs) resulting in improper and possibly corrupt award of state contracts and benefits to the Gupta family’s businesses.”

Madonsela emphasised that her investigation “did not take away his (Zuma’s) powers to establish inquiries at his discretion”. But if more cases are added to the Zondo Commission, it will not be able to conclude its work “in a timely manner”.

Zuma said the establishment of the long-awaited commission of inquiry into state capture “cannot wait any longer”.

“Pursuant to the investigation and remedial action of the public protector regarding complaints and allegations of the State of Capture, as well as the orders issued by the North Gauteng High Court in its judgment of 14 December 2017, I have decided to appoint a commission of inquiry,” Zuma said in a statement released on Tuesday evening, shortly before 19:30.

His party went on to debate his impeachment on Wednesday at an executive committee meeting in East London.

Zuma said the commission would be headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

Zondo was recommended by chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, as ordered by Madonsela in her report, State of Capture, released in October 2016.

The North Gauteng High Court ordered that the public protector’s remedial action is binding and that Zuma had to appoint a commission of inquiry within 30 days, headed by a judge selected solely by Mogoeng.  The court also ordered that Zuma personally pay the costs of the review.

The ANC’s elective conference in Johannesburg last month decided that the inquiry should be expedited. However, two days after the conclusion of the conference, Zuma filed his appeal.

Zuma said in his statement that he was “concerned that this matter (the state capture inquiry) has occupied the public mind for some time now and deserves urgent attention”.  “I have only appealed the orders to the extent that they set a particular precedent for the Office of the President of the Republic and are indeed deserving of legal certainty,” he said.

“The allegations that the state has been wrestled out of the hands of its real owners, the people of South Africa, is of paramount importance and are therefore deserving of finality and certainty.”

“Accordingly, I have decided that, while the issues determined by the order require final determination by higher courts, this matter cannot wait any longer.”

He said further delays in appointing the commission would make the public doubt government’s commitment to dismantling “all forms of corruption” and entrench “the perception” that the state has been captured by private interests.

South African Parliament’s rules committee met on Wednesday to set out presidential impeachment rules, as instructed by the Constitutional Court.

Analysts say if Zuma leaves office, it will be quietly and with dignity.

According to eNCA, Parliament is yet to reconvene for 2018, but MPs already have their work cut out for them.

Political analyst Sanusha Naidu says it’s not a matter of if Zuma steps down but when.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen  … before the State of the Nation [speech] or even immediately after. Between Sona, which takes place in February, and the budget speech, which comes two weeks after that –  I think that period is going to be critical,” he was quoted as saying by the television news channel.

The ANC also needs to decide which mechanism it would use to remove Zuma as president.

Zuma could simply resign from office, like Thabo Mbeki did.

If a president resigns, they retain all the benefits of office and the National Assembly Speaker acts as President for up to 30 days.

If Parliament is in recess, MPs will be summoned to Cape Town and a replacement president will be elected from among its members.

If a president refuses to resign, the National Assembly could pass a motion of no confidence, or the president could be impeached, losing all post-presidential benefits and pensions.

Naidu said “The president may not want to lose whatever benefits he has. So there’s a whole lot of manoeuvrability that needs to take place in terms of what is the most amicable solution and exit for a recall solution.”

Others say Zuma’s potential exit will need to be carefully choreographed so as not to create more division in the party.

He is still highly respected and venerated by many members of the party’s executive.

Some analysts say the 2019 election fortunes of the ANC rest on how long Zuma remains in office. – News24/eNCA.

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