Carl Niehaus to Zondo: Commission is ‘limiting and debilitating’

Durban – Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association spokesperson Carl Niehaus has called on the country’s deputy chief justice to, among other things, extend the scope of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in order to affirm its credibility. 

In a memorandum addressed to deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, Niehaus, on behalf of supporters of former president Jacob Zuma, called on Zondo to "have the courage and integrity to be upfront and honest that this is a serious problem". 

"It is very important for the sake of our South African judiciary that the debilitating limitations of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture must be acknowledged. If the honourable Justice Zondo fails to do so he will do the justice system in South Africa a huge disservice," said Niehaus. 

The memorandum comes in response to Zuma’s first day of testimony at the commission on Monday. 

Before the former president started, his advocate Muzi Sikhakhane raised reservations about the commission’s processes and said that his client had not had enough time to prepare ahead of his appearance. The advocate also said Zuma would be outing certain people during his testimony. 

In his widely anticipated testimony, Zuma alleged there had been a "conspiracy" to oust him since the 1990s because he knew too much about certain members of the ANC, including some who had allegedly been spies for the apartheid government.  

Zuma also claimed there had been several assassination plots against him and that local and foreign intelligence agencies were part of the conspiracy. 

In the memorandum, Niehaus said every effort needed to be made "to avoid the growing perception that the South African judicial system, and specific members of our judiciary, are captured by certain factional political and business interests". 

The memorandum called on Zondo to act with "courage and determination" to "save the judicial system". 

"The manner in which [Zondo] proceeds with the work of the commission will be of critical overall importance, and will also determine his own legacy. History will not judge any failure to address, and correct, the current serious shortcomings of the mandate of the commission kindly."

"The current mandate of the commission is far too narrow, both in terms of scope and understanding of what state capture is, as well as the long historical period of colonial exploitation and subjugation that the majority of black South Africans have been subjected to. 

"It is our considered view that any true and fair understanding of the phenomenon of state capture must cover the totality of the history of South Africa, and should start with the capture of South Africa by the white European colonists. We understand that the mandate of the commission was derived from the report on state capture by the former public protector, entitled the ‘State of Capture’, but as a consequence the mandate of the commission is far too narrow, and actually fatally flawed. 

"Its origins make the manner in which the commission had been established suspect, and therefore unfortunately prone to be used to cover up certain untoward and corrupt activities, while there is a growing perception that the commission – in a selective and politically factional self-serving manner – concentrates only on certain issues and activities. Under these circumstances it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the commission to escape being used/abused as a political tool for the promotion of certain self-serving interest groups, while targeting others," read the memorandum. 

Included in the memorandum was concern about "how the mainstream media reports on the work of the commission". 

The reporting was called "biased" and intent on targeting certain groups and individuals opposed to the interests of white monopoly capital. Zondo was urged to take the media to task for its "selective and factional" reporting on the commission. 

"The fact that the premises from where the commission operates is owned by a mainstream media house, namely Tiso Black Star Media, creates the unfortunate impression that the commission could itself be captured, or be beholden to certain interest groups and financial commitments." 

Zuma’s supporters demanded the contract to hold the inquiry in the Tiso Blackstar building be cancelled and the commission be moved to other premises, according to the memorandum. 

The memorandum also asked if former SARS commissioner Tom Moyane would be given the right to question public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan about allegations Gordhan made during his testimony before the commission. 

Zuma’s testimony is set to continue on Tuesday and run for the entire week.  

African News Agency (ANA)

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