A child’s dummy is also known as a “pacifier”, because it can calm down an angry or restless infant. Ultimately, though, it has no nutritional or physical value. We hope that the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture will not also turn out to be an artificial “pacifier”, keeping the South African electorate appeased by the appearance of an investigative process but, in reality, offering no real judicial value.
The early signs have not been promising.
Inquiry Judge Raymond Zondo has already lamented the lack of witnesses, or people coming forward with evidence of events related to state capture. He has also complained that inefficiencies in various state organs have delayed the granting of security clearance to the inquiry’s investigators.
It is perhaps not surprising there has been no flood of people offering testimony. The days of the dominance of former president Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family and their network of flunkies are not that far in the past. Nor have the people allegedly involved in setting up the vast scheme to siphon away state resources disappeared from the scene. Some still hold influential positions and it is not surprising those with knowledge are choosing to lay low.
In addition, there is a wealth of evidence – in well-sourced media reports about the “Zupta” partnership – that much of the conniving was done at arm’s length from the president, and that little more than a nod or a wink was necessary, in most cases, to steal contracts and tenders or subvert state processes. The Americans coined an expression for it: plausible deniability.
And Zuma has proved as adept at denying as he has at delaying tactics. It will not be simple to turn evidence at an inquiry into a prosecution. The cases will be complex and Zuma and the Guptas have the best lawyers.
Still, we live in hope.