Johannesburg – One of the country’s prominent lawyers, Vuyani Ngalwana SC, has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and others who served in former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet to appear before the Zondo commission and account for their alleged roles in corruption and state capture.
In a 10-page formal request sent to the commission this week, Ngalwana blasted the manner in which it chose witnesses, saying it left out relevant people such as Cabinet members who served under Zuma between 2009 and 2018.
The acting judge of the North Gauteng High Court’s move comes weeks after Zuma’s lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane accused Zondo of bias and dismissed the commission as a political tool used to destroy and humiliate the former president.
Maintaining that he made the request in terms of rule 9.1 of the rules governing proceedings of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector, including organs of the state, Ngalwana said the entire Cabinet should be questioned on their roles in the alleged corruption under Zuma.
The former chairperson of the General Council of the Bar of SA accused Ramaphosa of failing to take responsibility for governance failures at state-owned enterprises even though he was appointed chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee into SOEs in 2016.
“Many state-owned enterprises are, by government’s own account, a financial and governance shambles and are, according to the media reports, riddled with corruption involving tenders of considerable amounts of money.
“Surely, the president can now be called by the commission to account for his role in the decimation of state-owned entities, particularly on what his interventions were to stabilise and reform these entities during his tenure as chair of Zuma’s IMC on state-owned enterprises, and where, in his assessment, the failures and successes of his efforts lie,” said Ngalwana.
He insisted that Ramaphosa appear before Judge Zondo to clarify, among others, allegations that some of the donors who funded his successful ANC presidential campaign in 2017, CR17, were later rewarded with government contracts and appointments to the boards of SOEs.
“Are these allegations true or false? Will a bare denial of these allegations suffice for the Commission? Documents that could possibly serve as evidence of contributors to the President’s election campaign remain sealed from the public scrutiny by court order.
“I am informed that a court challenge to that decision has been mounted and that papers have already been prepared.
“But does the Commission not require that evidence in order to satisfy itself that there is no truth in these troubling allegations?”
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Tyrone Seale on Friday said: “The president has on a number of occasions and public platforms declared his willingness to testify before the Commission.”
Commission spokesperson Reverend Mbuyiselo Stemela said he would process the Sunday Independent’s inquiry and revert. However, he failed to do so.
Ngalwana further said the commission should also investigate whether Ramaphosa and members of the present and previous national executive, including deputy ministers, breached the Constitution by facilitating unlawful awarding of tenders by the state-owned enterprises to benefit the Gupta family.
“The nature and extent of corruption, if any, in awarding of contracts and tenders to companies, business entities and organisations by government departments, agencies and entities.
In particular, whether any member of the national executive (including the president) public official, functionary or any organ of state influenced the awarding of tenders to benefit themselves, their families or entities in which they held a personal interest.”
On Friday, Ngalwana told Sunday Independent that as a concerned citizen he was motivated by the Constitution and the promotion of participatory democracy to demand the appearance of Ramaphosa and the previous Zuma Cabinet before the Zondo Commission.
Among those listed by Ngalwana to appear were:
* Ramaphosa, who was Zuma’s deputy between 2014 and 2018;
* Former president Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy to Zuma from 2009 to 2014;
* Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan, who was finance minister from 2009 to 2014 and 2015 to 2017;
* Lungile Fuzile, who was National Treasury director-general from 2011 to 2017;
* Dondo Mogajane, who was a senior executive at National Treasury for many years, and has been director-general since 2017;
* The entire Eskom board of directors, including its chief executive.
Most of the people mentioned in Ngalwana’s letter either failed to respond to questions sent or could not be reached for comment.
Gordhan’s spokesperson Richard Mantu requested that the questions be sent to his email, but did not respond.
Motlanthe’s phone was off, while his personal assistant at the Motlanthe Foundation, Lerato Zimbili’s phone rang unanswered yesterday. Both also failed to respond to text messages, emails and Whatsapp messages sent.
Ngalwana said there were serious questions that the Zuma-era Cabinet members ought to be called to answer.
“There are numerous others that have been reported in the public media, the latest being an interview with former Prasa chief executive, Lucky Montana, on YouTube channel #TheInsightFactor”, he said, adding that Montana details allegations of corruption which implicates senior managers of the current cabinet and senior board members.
“He (Montana) says he has submitted a detailed statement to the commission. In my view, it is the duty of this commission to investigate these serious allegations and establish their truth or falsity. I ask that the commission consider the detailed statement that Mr Montana says he has provided to the commission, as well as his serious allegations in that interview which is a public domain and easily accessible on Youtube,” added Ngalwana.
He said he had hoped the commission would have called on Ramaphosa and those who were Zuma’s Cabinet by now.
“It seems fairly certain that the commission has no intention of calling all members of Zuma’s cabinet to shed light on matters of alleged state capture. I appreciate that the commission has limited time to complete its work by March 31, 2021, that it may not be feasible to obtain the evidence of all these persons and assess it in time before the final report of the commission is due for submission to the President who, ironically, is one of those persons who should be questioned.
“But that, with respect, is of the commission’s own doing by choices it has made as regards which witnesses to invite, leaving out persons who are, in my submission, clearly relevant witnesses capable of shedding light on alleged state capture during their time in Zuma’s Cabinet and senior official positions in organs of state,” added Ngalwana.
In 2018, the DA called on Ramaphosa to appear before the commission to explain why he allowed alleged state capture to spread during his time as Zuma’s deputy.
Ramaphosa has not appeared before the commission despite his claims that he is willing to testify.
Political analyst Dr Metji Makgoba said Ngalwana’s request was a good approach, for political reasons.
“It stands to show us that many of these Cabinet ministers have dirty hands and might directly be involved in corrupt activities in some way or another and will demonstrate to the nation how the ANC is contaminated by political termites,” he said.
“Expanding this commission to cover all Cabinet ministers under Zuma might provide a broader political perspective that shows the complexities and the cultural nature of corruption in South Africa.”