Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) has added its voice to growing calls for the establishment of an independent judicial commission of inquiry into “State capture”, which it says is necessary to restore confidence in the economy and the future of the country.
The big business body has also urged the African National Congress National Executive Committee (NEC), which is due to meet on May 26, to “bring appropriate pressure to bear” on President Jacob Zuma to investigate the findings of former Public Protector advocate Thuli Madonsela set out in the ‘State of Capture’ report, released in October 2016.
The report, which made serious ‘observations’ about the influence of the Gupta family at State-owned companies and even in the appointment of Cabinet Ministers, recommends that Zuma convene a commission of inquiry led by a judge selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng. Zuma subsequently took the report on judicial review.
“The toxic cloud hanging over the Office of the President is eroding the legitimacy of our government and hurting investor confidence. Unless this crisis is urgently stemmed we will see increasing poverty and inequality.” BLSA said in a statement, noting that the matter has been raised directly with Zuma at a meeting on April 28.
“We noted the severity of the allegations and ‘observations’ laid out in the Public Protector’s report. BLSA urged the President to convene a full and public airing of the evidence in a process conducted by an independent judicial commission of enquiry. The reason is that evidence of activities, if true, pose a risk to both constitutional government and the stewardship of the economy.”
The Constitution, BLSA argues, obliges the President to act in the best interests of the country. “We therefore urge President Jacob Zuma to put the interests of the country first and to, once and for all, remove the devastating allegations of State capture by instituting an independent judicial commission of inquiry.”
The appeal comes only days after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa also called for a judicial inquiry to “get to the bottom of this” ahead of the 2019 elections. It also follows the release, by the South African Council of Churches, of a statement arising from its “unburdening panel", which warns of “concerted efforts” to undermine collective political institutions in the executive and establish “parallel governance” so as to secure “control over State wealth”.
The BLSA statement is aligned with concerns raised at a recent Imbizo convened by the South African Communist Party, where it was agreed that the appointment of an independent judicial commission of enquiry into State capture was now “urgent”.
The declaration arising form the gathering also called for urgent attention to be given to ensuring good corporate governance at State-owned entities. “In particular we call for the dissolution of the Eskom Board and the reversal of the irregular reappointment of the Eskom CEO [Brian Molefe]”.
Likewise, BLSA has called on government to use its powers as Eskom’s shareholder to immediately reverse Molefe’s appointment and to replace the existing Eskom board.