State capture commission likely to resume end of June or early July, says Zondo

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond 'Ray' Zondo greets the commission before hearing testimony from Trevor Manuel and Siphiwe Nyanda, 28 February 2019. Picture: Karen Sandison / African News Agency (ANA)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo says former president Jacob Zuma is most likely to appear before the commission reasonably soon after the resumption of public hearings.

The commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will most likely resume public hearings during the last week of June or the first week of July.

Zondo announced this on Wednesday during a media briefing on the work of the commission during the national lockdown.

Following the implementation of the lockdown, the commission postponed hearings that had been scheduled for the period 20 April to 30 April.

Zondo said on Wednesday that on the resumption of the public hearings, the commission would focus on what he called public protector issues reflected in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report, which resulted in the establishment of the inquiry.

These public protector issues are matters that revolved around the Gupta family and their entities, Zondo said.

He added that other issues which did not fall under the public protector issues but were within the commission’s terms of reference and which had been dealt with previously would also be concluded.

Zondo told the media of how the lockdown had interfered with the commission’s plans to resume public hearings on 24 April.

He said under Level 4 of the lockdown, the commission was permitted to resume its work, however, measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 had to be in place for this to happen.

“Doing that needed quite some time,” Zondo said, adding that “a lot of work” was, however, done remotely or from home by himself and the commission’s legal and investigating teams.

The commission’s chair said the”finer details” on Covid-19 safety measures at the commission were being finalised and were expected to be done by next week.

Zondo said the commission’s personnel would be able to return to work on 15 June, adding that those who could continue to work from home should do so.

He said under Level 3 of the lockdown the challenge of interprovincial travel, which was problematic to him and the members of the commission’s teams, have “been sorted out” as regulations allow for certain arrangements for judges, lawyers, advocates, attorneys and sheriffs.

Zondo said on Wednesday morning and last week Friday he met with President Cyril Ramaphosa to update him on the work of the commission and the challenges it is facing.

He said Ramaphosa “made it quite clear” that he fully supported the commission.

Zondo acknowledged that Covid-19 would change how the commission conducted its work, which was also due to time constraints and limited resources.

Witnesses appearing before the commission’s chair will now be asked questions on certain important issues in their affidavits rather than the previous norm of the evidence leader taking them throughout the entire affidavit, Zondo said.

This would allow for more witnesses to appear before the chairperson, Zondo said, with some not making the appearance but only their affidavits being submitted to the commission.

Zondo said the less time spent on public hearings would afford him more time to work “behind the scenes”.

Former president Jacob Zuma is expected to return to the witness stand at the commission “reasonably” soon after it resumes its public hearings, Zondo said.

Zondo said one difficulty with issuing an interim report at the moment was that some “personalities” appeared in different “workstreams” the commission has to deal with and so an interim report making findings on such a”personality” would disqualify him from hearing their testimony in other “workstreams”.

He added that he prefered to make findings once all “workstreams” had been finalised and that he would prefer to devote his energy and focus on finishing the work of the commission before it comes to an end in about eight or nine months.

Zondo assured the public that the commission was working tirelessly to ensure that it concluded its work timeously.

“We are doing the best we can to make sure that we don’t leave out important witnesses and implicated persons,” said  Zondo.

He said Covid-19 has had an impact on the country’s finances and subsequently the commission’s budget and that Ramaphosa could be expected to appear before him in the latter part of 2020.

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