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Zondo commission gets 3-month extension after court grants chair's urgent application

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Zondo commission gets 3-month extension after court grants chair's urgent application

Photo by Reuters
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo

23rd February 2021

By: News24Wire

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The Gauteng High Court has extended the State capture commission of inquiry by three months, following an urgent application by commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, on Tuesday morning.

Zondo's application for the extension, which was not opposed by any party, was granted by Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi. Her ruling was that Zondo has until 30 June to finalise his commission's investigation report.

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The inquiry, which was originally intended to run for 180 days, was previously granted a "final extension" by Gauteng High Court Judge Wendy Hughes – who stressed that "... further extensions would not be warranted.

"The interest of justice dictates that finality be attained with findings, recommendations and a report of the commission. The commission owes this to the nation as the work of the commission is of national interest," she said at the time. 

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Zondo, however, argued that the commission had been prevented from hearing evidence for three months by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown.

"There was also a disruptive impact on some of the work of the investigation team: for example, investigators were not generally able to travel across provincial borders to seek out and consult potential witnesses," he said.

He said the commission was almost done hearing oral evidence and was hoping to use most of the extension period, if granted, to write the report. He said it was in the public interest to grant the extension because if it was not granted, "the commission will be denied the opportunity to prepare its report" for the president.

"It would be untenable for the commission to have been allowed to hear all the evidence it has heard since 2018 and deny it the opportunity to prepare and submit a report to the president. This would, I believe, clearly not be in the public interest," Zondo added.

The court agreed, paving the way for the inquiry to complete its hearing of oral evidence from a number of high-profile witnesses – including President Cyril Ramaphosa, former spy boss Arthur Fraser and former finance minister Malusi Gigaba.

Former president Jacob Zuma, who faces a two-year jail term if he fails to testify at the inquiry and provide it with evidence, has yet to indicate whether he will return to the commission. He has until 31 March to do so.

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