Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo says not granting the commission of inquiry into state capture an extension to complete its work, would be a “disaster”.
“If we are not granted an extension, it would be a disaster because we would not be able to make any proper findings, but I hope that it would be granted,” Zondo told News24 at a media briefing on Thursday on the life span of the commission.
“The Office of the State Attorney has not received any notice of opposition so far, no-one has communicated this intention and if the matter is unopposed. The application is likely to be heard,” he added.
This comes after the commission approached the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to request an extension until December 31, 2020.
The commission officially started on August 20, 2018 and has heard damning allegations from various witnesses.
Despite the commission hearing evidence from scores of witnesses since it started, the chair is not convinced that the commission has completed its work according to the terms of reference.
“The commission has heard evidence from more than 150 witnesses, sat for more than 190 days, the transcript of evidence recorded is more than 27 000 pages, the exhibits including the statements etc. are more than 450 000 pages – so there is a lot of work that the commission has done and it is important that issues of state capture be finalized,” he explained.
Zondo further addressed public opinion that has deemed the commission “a gossip session” or a “waste of time”.
“People are entitled to their opinions, I believe that this is a very important commission .
“I do not think we are perfect, but I think we certainly do our best to do this job. Maybe they do not like what is coming out of the commission, but I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of South Africans see the value of this commission,” he added.
Since its inception, the controversial Gupta family has yet to stand before the commission to state their version of events.
“It will not mean that the commission did not get a good picture of what happened, we would have preferred to have their evidence. They chose to not give us their side of their story. That does not mean that we will stop this important work. We will hear from everybody and make findings,” Zondo explained.
Zondo further said the allegations of corruption presented before the commission is “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“Corruption is very deep in our society, there is a lot of corruption – I believe that with what the commission has seen, it is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
In September last year, News24 reported that the commission cost taxpayers R356m, information which was outlined in a parliamentary reply from Minister of Justice and Correctional Services Ronald Lamola.
Of that, R244.5m was spent in the 2018-2019 financial year and R111.5m in 2019, up until August 31.
More than R15m was spent on compensating its staff.
In addition, investigators were paid R2.2m in 2018-2019, an amount which skyrocketed to R86m in 2019-2020, up to the end of August.
Legal services cost just under R53m over the financial years combined and “investigative tools” cost R35m in the first year.
Communication for the commission cost about R10m and the leasing of the building cost more than R1.1m.
In addition, R95m was spent on “other goods and services”.
The inquiry continues.