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CorruptionSouth Africa

South Africa's 'state capture' investigation wraps up

Louis Oelofse
June 22, 2022

Almost four years after it began, the Commission of Inquiry into "state capture" has completed its anti-graft investigation. In six reports, it sets out the case against Jacob Zuma, a former president, and his cronies.

South Africa's Chief Justice Raymond Zondo hands the final investigation report to President Cyril Ramaphosa
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said the final part of his report also deals with testimony given by President Cyril Ramaphosa about graft under his predecessor's administration Image: Siphiwe Sibeko/REUTERS

South African Chief Justice Raymond Zondo handed the final part of a report of an investigation into corruption during the presidency of Jacob Zuma to President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Over nearly four years, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, headed by Zondo, heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses and examined thousands of documents about graft during Zuma's two terms, from 2009 to 2019.

"State capture was an assault on our democracy and violated the rights of every man, woman and child in this country," Ramaphosa said.

The president said he would submit a detailed plan to parliament within four months to outline what he plans to do with the commission's report.

"The report is far more than a record of widespread corruption, fraud and abuse; it is also an instrument through which the country can work to ensure that such events are never allowed to happen again," Ramaphosa said.

"I don't want to make anybody think that this report is all you need to rid South Africa of state capture or to make sure that state capture never happens again, but I do believe that it will, the recommendations that have been made, if they are implemented, will make a significant contribution to that goal," Zondo said. 

Ramaphosa's testimony also examined

The final part of the report is 1,824 pages long. It includes findings on South Africa's domestic intelligence agency known as the State Security Agency, which was allegedly used to go after Zuma's political foes during his tenure.

The final chapters also deal with evidence given by Ramaphosa during the commission's hearings. The president said he hadn't seen the conclusion the commission made about his testimony before accepting the report.

"He could have made a negative finding against me, which I will accept," Ramaphosa said on Wednesday. 

During his testimony, Ramaphosa told the commission he had no first-hand knowledge of any wrongdoing and only heard about it through media reports. But the report said he should have done more to make his own inquiries.

"Ought he to have known?" the report asked of Ramaphosa, who was deputy president under Zuma between 2014 and 2018.

"The wealth of evidence before this commission suggests the answer is yes. There was surely enough credible information in the public domain to at least prompt him to inquire and perhaps act on a number of serious allegations," the report stated.

There were fears that Zondo would spare Ramaphosa in his report especially after the commission missed a deadline to wrap up its work.

Opposition parties questioned the delay and criticized communication between Zondo and Ramaphosa over the delay.

"We've dealt with each other with a great deal with integrity, not for once ever wanting to discuss the substance of the work that the chief just was doing, not for once even to discuss the evidence that I present to the commission," Ramaphosa said.

Guptas to face corruption charges

Central to the commission's work was the suggestion that Zuma's associates, the Gupta family, won control of much of the state and its finances.

Born in India, brothers Ajay, Atul, and Rajesh Gupta moved to South Africa in the early 1990s.

Atul Gupta and President Jacob Zuma
The Guptas are accused of using connections to Zuma to win contracts, siphon funds and influence appointmentsImage: Deckert

Through their business ventures, they became close to the African National Congress, particularly with Zuma and his family.

The commission found that they had significant access to Zuma during his presidency.

According to the commission, they influenced his political decisions, including ministerial appointments, staffing at the various state-owned enterprises and rearrangement of the revenue service to advance their financial interests.

They left South Africa for Dubai shortly after Zuma was forced to resign following accusations of corruption against him and the Guptas.

Two of the brothers, Atul and Rajesh Gupta, were arrested in Dubai in June.

They were taken into custody after an Interpol Red Notice was issued, and Dubai police was working with South African authorities on extradition.

The Gupta family has constantly denied any wrongdoing.

Zuma and the commission

In an earlier report, the Commission recommended that law enforcement agencies further investigate Zuma with a view to possible prosecution for corruption.

The former president dismissed the commission he had set up.

At an initial appearance at the commission in 2019, he said: "I have been vilified and alleged to be the king of corruption."

He ignored numerous summonses to appear before the commission again.

In 2021, the Constitutional Court found him guilty of contempt for his refusal to appear at the commission again and sentenced him to 15 months in prison.

Zuma's jailing in July sparked a series of violent protests and looting in which more than 350 people died.

He was released on medical parole, but a court has since ordered him back to jail — an order his legal team was appealing.

What is 'state capture' in South Africa?

State capture is a South African term that refers to how private individuals and companies have illegally influenced institutions to do their bidding.

The commission also recommended that law enforcement agencies investigate several former executives of state-owned companies, ex-ministers and some current members of Ramaphosa's Cabinet.

ANC chairperson and Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said he would be taking the state capture report on judicial review. The Commission found he had corrupt dealings with a services company, Bosasa, which paid for upgrades to his home when he was secretary-general of the ANC.

Judge Zondo said there would be "no scarcity" of people wanting to challenge the commission's work.

He said that was one of the reasons the release of the final report was delayed.

He wanted to ensure the "proper completion of the conclusion of the report."

Reuters contributed to this report

Edited by: Rob Turner