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Calls mount for Gupta family to testify at Zondo commission

By Samkelo Mtshali

Johannesburg – The success of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, which resumes in two weeks’ time, hinges on the Justice Ministry’s ability to extradite the Gupta brothers and have them provide witness testimony before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Ajay and Atul Gupta
Ajay and Atul Gupta

This is the view of political analyst Professor Ashwin Desai, of the University of Johannesburg, who on Thursday said the main challenge for the commission was whether the Guptas would appear or not.

“Without the Guptas, all the other characters are minor figures in the drama”.

“State capture without the Guptas is like staging Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet without Romeo and Juliet being at the centre of the story. The question is: will the minister of justice and the head of the NPA succeed in getting the Guptas extradited?

“If they are unsuccessful, then the evidence is like a ball of cotton that is unravelling and can never be put together for a coherent narrative. That is the commission’s most significant challenge,” said Desai.

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Another challenge was the question of resources, which the commission was running out of.

“Having said that, the commission had to be the way to go to open up this world to us that often was hidden from us. But it is also whether this evidence can be used as a basis for prosecution,” added Desai.

Professor Bheki Mngomezulu, from the University of the Western Cape, said the commission was a “total waste of time and resources” when looking at the amount of money the lawyers were claiming from the commission fund.

“That money could have been used for development. Some of the witnesses that have appeared before the commission have not given us anything of substance, which means that even when the report is released there will be very few instances where the prosecution will continue.

“We don’t necessarily need this commission; instead we could have used this (money) for development purposes, more especially given the fact there’s been a number of service delivery protests which could’ve been averted by making sure that communities were given the basic services that they need,” Mngomezulu said.

Political analyst Mighti Jamie said the rules of evidence chosen for the commission made it very unlikely that anything tangible was going to happen in terms of recovery of money or arrests.

“There’s a lot of hearsay evidence that has been submitted which is not going to hold forth in a real court, but there also wasn’t a lot of documentary evidence that was required to be submitted,” Jamie said.

As a result of this it was highly unlikely that the country was going to see a lot of evidence submitted make it to normal courts for real action, meaning that the state capture commission was going to “fall more into the bracket of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission” than a real judicial moment leading to justice.

“Unfortunately, the way that the state commission was designed it was never meant to catch anybody,” said Jamie. IOL