Article published on Engineering News website

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has strongly criticised an African National Congress (ANC) suggestion that the scope of a proposed judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of State capture be broadened beyond the issues outlined in the former Public Protector’s ‘State of Capture’ report.

The big business organisation argues that such a move would be a transparent attempt to divert attention away form a small group of individuals who have been manipulating politicians, government employees and organs of State for their own ends.

“Equating law-abiding businesses with criminal and corrupt elements colluding with the State is objectionable, misplaced and without foundation,” BLSA chairperson Jabu Mabuza said.

BLSA’s statement follows the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) acceptance that a judicial commission of inquiry should be established “without delay”. However, the NEC argued that the terms of reference should “be broad enough to uncover the influence of business on the State”.

While welcoming the ANC’s endorsement of the need for an inquiry, Mabuza argued that its scope should be confined to “urgent matters raised in the Public Protector’s ‘State of Capture’ report”.

“There is abundant evidence that a small group of individuals have gained sufficient influence over the political leadership of South Africa to enable their unfettered access to the organs and assets of the State for the purpose of self-enrichment. In so doing they have systematically compromised numerous political and government office bearers over decades, thereby eroding our democracy and sovereignty,” Mabuza said.

Calls for the commission to widen its ambit were, therefore, “no more than an attempt to distract from the emphasis on the perpetrators of State capture, a phenomenon now well recognised and rejected by all South Africans of integrity”.

BLSA also insisted that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng should appoint the judge and determine the terms of reference of the inquiry, so as to guarantee the commission’s independence. This, too, is in line with the recommendation made by Thuli Madonsela, but which President Jacob Zuma is legally contesting.

In a recent statement, Zuma said he was not opposed to the implementation of the Public Protector’s remedial action, but was of the view that some of the remedial actions were “irregular, unlawful and unconstitutional”.

“Legal advice obtained pointed at the fact that the remedial action on the appointment of a commission of inquiry undermines the separation of powers doctrine. The Constitution gives the power to appoint a commission of inquiry to the President, which she/he must exercise when the President holds a view that a matter of public concern requires such a process,” The Presidency said in a statement.

However, without the Chief Justice playing the role outlined in Madonsela’s remedial actions, the commission would not be considered independent, BLSA warned.

“It is in the interest of all law abiding South Africans that the commission start its work immediately, armed with all the necessary resources at its disposal, in a focused way, to address the various allegations of State capture,” Mabuza said