23 Apr

Zuma Legacy Leaves South African Anti-Graft Panel With Huge Task

A South African judicial commission faces a daunting task in investigating allegations that members of the Gupta family and their allies connived with former President Jacob Zuma and his son Duduzane to loot billions of rand from state coffers.

Its success or failure will go a long way in determining whether South Africa can put behind it years of mismanagement and plunder during Zuma’s scandal-ridden administration that undermined investor confidence and stymied economic growth.

Zuma agreed to the inquiry after losing control of the ruling party and a lawsuit challenging a directive from the nation’s former graft ombudsman that spelled out its powers and appointment procedures.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and his panel of six senior staff members must probe an array of deals between state entities and private businesses, some of them set up to obscure the intended beneficiaries.

It will require wading through hundreds of thousands of documents and interviewing scores of witnesses, many of who may be reluctant to give evidence because they risk implicating themselves. Several key players, including the three Gupta brothers and Duduzane Zuma, have fled the country.

While the panel was given six months to complete its investigation into what’s become known in South Africa as “state capture,” Zondo has said that’s woefully inadequate and he’s requested an extension to its mandate. He hasn’t said when public hearings will begin. The commission’s findings could be used as the basis for criminal prosecutions by law enforcement agencies, which are also conducting several concurrent probes.

These are among the key controversies the commission will have to focus on:

Peddling of cabinet posts

Former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas and Vytjie Mentor, the ex-chairwoman of parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee, alleged that the Guptas offered them ministerial posts in exchange for business concessions. Jonas said he was also offered a 600-million-rand ($50 million) bribe.

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