MASHUDU SADIKE, BALDWIN NDABA AND TSHWARELO HUNTER MOGAKANE
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa has rejected insinuations that he and Chief Justice Raymond Zondo discussed and altered the contents of the final state capture report, saying that such perceptions were “demeaning” and out of character.
Speaking at the official handover ceremony of the Zondo Commission report at the Union Buildings on Wednesday night, Ramaphosa said the chief justice requested to meet him in person to discuss his failure to meet the deadline, which resulted in the delays.
Ramaphosa and Justice Zondo dismissed claims that the delays in releasing the reports were caused by their plot to cook the report to implicate former spy boss Arthur Fraser, who laid criminal charges against the president over the theft of $4 million at his Phala Phala farm in Limpopo in 2020.
“The chief justice had wanted to communicate to me about the time of handing over the report.
“When he realised that he was not going to make the appointment of handing over the report, he felt that he should communicate with me.
“One has to take us at our word that we have dealt with each other with integrity,” Ramaphosa said.
“We never once wanted to discuss the substance of the work that the chief justice was doing, and not for once to even discuss the evidence that I presented to the commission which was led by the chief justice.
“Even if he has made a negative finding against me I will accept (that) and that is the basis on which we deal with each.”
The president added that Justice Zondo had been “honest, fair and did his work with integrity”.
“I cannot accept the innuendos that have been made that there was any way that the chief justice and I could have discussed the substance of the work.
“It is quite demeaning actually because it is way below what the chief justice would do. I would not be able to know how to ask the chief justice to comment on the substance of his work because it’s out of his nature,” added Ramaphosa.
For his part, Zondo said he had to delay the handover because the report was not ready and the situation was out of his control.
In his opening remarks, Zondo said he was unable to make findings on law enforcement agencies because the scope was too broad and would have taken the commission at least a decade to probe it.
When asked by the media why that was the case, Zondo replied that they did start with investigations into law enforcement agencies but realised halfway through that the subject was too complex.
“After quite some time, it became clear to us that it would require a lot more time than we had thought to investigate properly such matters.
“For example, if you talk about whether in deciding to prosecute or not to prosecute a prosecutor was in pursuit of state capture or some agenda, it’s not always very easy to get evidence that would show that because you have got to leave room for the fact that a prosecutor could make that decision in good faith but be wrong.
“So, just because she or he might turn out to have been wrong doesn’t mean that she made that decision in pursuit of some agenda,” Zondo said.
He added that the topic required “thorough” investigation, which would include visiting various provinces, while they operated under strict deadlines.
Zondo said he did not not regret his decision to recommend the prosecution of former president Jacob Zuma for contempt of the commission.
Responding to a question on whether he regretted the fact that the Constitutional Court sentenced Zuma to 15 months in prison, Zondo said: “I sometimes look back on decisions I made in the past. I struggled to find any decision which I made and regretted it. I would make the same decision if faced with the same situation in the future.”
While he did not want to give finer details of his findings, including whether he had made an adverse finding against Ramaphosa, he said the entire state capture reports would make a significant contribution towards the goal of fighting state capture.
He said the final report had two parts: part five which has two volumes and part six which has four volumes.
The final report dealt with matters of the SABC, the Estina Dairy Farm, the Guptas Waterkloof landing, the State Security Agency (SSA) and various other state-owned entities.
In his remarks before accepting the report, Ramaphosa vowed to stick to a High Court deadline for him to table to Parliament how he intended to deal with the State Capture Commission’s recommendations.
"The submission of the final report today brings to an end the work of the commission and marks the fulfilment of the weighty mandate given to Chief Justice Zondo in January 2018. In line with the directive of the High Court, within four months from this date, I will formally present to Parliament the full report of the commission together with an indication of my intentions on the implementation of the commission’s recommendations,“ said Ramaphosa.
He said the report provided an opportunity for the government to clean up on corruption.
“We have arranged for the administrative work needed to secure the archive of the work done by the commission, and ensure relevant institutions have access to the extensive evidence it has collected. I call on you, one and all, to support the measures that all the structures of state will take to return our country to the path of integrity, transformation and progress,” Ramaphosa said.