State capture commission: that’s a wrap, folks!

The final season of the “Commission of the Inquiry into State Capture” ended last week – and what a show it’s been! At times it has felt rather like reality TV. We’ve watched the mighty fall, or just look plain ridiculous (cough, Malusi Gigaba, cough). Even presidents, past and present, couldn’t evade its might; one ended up in jail for trying to do just that. 😏

The commission looked specifically at the damage wrought by the notorious Gupta family and their accomplices in government. Proceedings ran for more than 1000 days; there was testimony from over 200 witnesses, and it cost around R1 billion. It also received countless extensions while grappling with 1 exabyte – or a cool one billion gigabytes – of evidentiary data. And, as commentator Stephen Grootes pointed out recently, its impact has been enormous. For instance, it led in part to powerful ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and former minister Gigaba’s fall. 

Startling revelations at the commission became so normal that we forget how incredible the process was. It would have been unheard of during Jacob Zuma’s presidency for high profile politicians to be held so publicly accountable; to sweat on national television and to have their reputations destroyed for what they did – creating a proper disincentive for others to engage in future corruption, we hope.

Of course, we’d also QUITE like to see actual prosecutions happen. 

So, what next? Commission chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, will compile a report for President Cyril Ramaphosa with recommendations on what to do next – likely, move to recover the stolen funds and prosecute those involved. 

Ramaphosa will be obliged to make the report public – unless he fancies almost inevitable approaches to the courts to force its release. And that won’t be the only judicial involvement: Zondo has indicated that we must be prepared for court challenges to the report itself. He’ll need to work hard to avoid that – as political analyst Ralph Mathekga pointed out: “The report will have to be tightened up in a way that its recommendations are clear, forthright, and do not leave room for questions that may require people to go to court to seek clarity.”

We’ll keep you updated as the report progresses, but rest assured: that the commission happened at all is a huge victory for accountability in South Africa. 

This article appeared as part of The Wrap, 19 August 2021. Sign up to receive our weekly updates.