Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo delivered a gripping closing statement on the second day of former Prasa board chair Popo Molefe’s testimony about corruption at Prasa during the state capture inquiry – where, among others, Zondo addressed what is required to stop corruption in South Africa and in the ruling party. Here is Zondo’s statement:
You might not have covered yourself in glory by saying certain things in the eyes of certain people. But I think certainly a lot of what you have said, needs to be said.
And in the eyes of those who put the interests of the country first, and in the eyes of those who are really committed to serving the public; serving the poor, some of the things you have said should make them very happy.
Part of what you have said raises issues that I continue to be concerned with as I look at what this commission is doing and what it should be doing, and what areas it should be focusing on.
And I know that for quite some time, I’ve been placing a lot of emphasis on the issue of the role of Parliament in terms of oversight. But it may be that part of the problem is that if a senior official within the governing party, for example, is aware that another senior member of the governing party or a leader, one of the leaders is involved in wrongdoing, he or she will be afraid to do what is right and say:
But you can’t do this and the organisation must take action when you as a member of the organisation do this, because we are bringing the name of this organisation into disrepute.
He or she may be afraid to take that stand because maybe she needs or he needs that leader in order to progress in her political career, or he or she needs, the supporters of that leader to vote for him or her next time she wants or he wants to ascend to a higher position, or next time he or she wants to have his or her name put in the list of those to go to Parliament or to the legislature.
And if I am in it, and I’m a member of the governing party.
And I see that somebody within the governing party who is in government who is in the executive, whether the person is president or whether the person is a minister, and I know my obligation to hold them to account and I want, I’m thinking about doing my job properly, I get scared, because that person, if he is president, he’s the person that I rely on to make me a minister or to make me a deputy minister or he and his supporters are the people that I rely on to be made chairperson of a committee in Parliament.
If I stand up and do my job properly in Parliament, in keeping with the oath of office that I’ve taken when I became a Member of Parliament, which effectively says, the country first; the people first, I decide not to do my job properly because I can’t be minister; I can’t be deputy minister; I can’t be chairperson of the portfolio committee, if I displease these people.
If I ask them difficult questions, they are going to ask me: Are you a member of my party?
Or are you a member of the opposition. And if I’m a minister, and I see another colleague who is a minister, that he or she is not doing the right things.
Here is a board that is supposed to have enough members to have a quorum. He or she is not appointing those members. The board has to go to court in order to get the job done that is supposed to be done by an organ of state.
I don’t say anything, even if I’m aware because I read about these things in the newspapers. Because I know that if I raise those things, I’m going to be unpopular within government, within the executive or within the governing party.
And I’ll be limiting my career. Or I will be without a job if I get fired, either for this or for something else, because I’m asking too many questions. I’m supposed to maybe mind my own business, look at my own department. I’m not supposed to ask these questions.
And if I am the president and I see that a certain department is not run properly, and that minister is not doing a proper job. Maybe I won’t fire them because they have a constituency that I’m going to need when next time I want to be re-elected as president.
If I take action against that minister who has got that kind of support, he or she is going to go out and mobilise support so that when next I want to be elected or re-elected as president, I won’t succeed. Other people, somebody else will be put up.
It may well be that unless these issues are resolved, whatever we do, as a country in trying to reduce the levels of corruption significantly, is not going to be effective.
It may well be that we need a president who is going to be in a position to stand up in Parliament and say when members of Parliament coming from the governing party don’t ask me difficult questions to hold me accountable, I know they’re not doing their job and they should not be here.
When you don’t ask my ministers difficult questions coming from the same party. I know you’re not doing your job, but your party requires you to do this job.
And it is not a career-limiting thing for you to ask difficult questions to ministers coming from your own party, to your own president, in the interests of the country and in order to make sure that these high levels of corruption are brought down.
It may be that the country needs somebody who can stand up and say, ‘Start with me; start with me’. The more questions you ask me. The more I realise you are a good member of the governing party. You’re a good Member of Parliament.
Well, I’m sure some will say I’m just dreaming, such a thing can never happen.
But it seems that we need something quite drastic. Maybe we need somebody who’s not going to be looking at even a re-election, to start changing things.
And if somebody is just going to say: “Let’s do the right thing – everybody. Let’s do the right thing for the sake of the country, the country comes first. The people come first.”
Because when there are elections I’m sure every political party will tell the voters “the people come first”. But we need to see this in action. We don’t need speeches of how people say they are committed to fighting corruption.
When it comes to this commission, we also need actions to show that people are supporting the commission by coming to the commission to give evidence.
You have come to the commission. You have come here many times, and you have given evidence. I’ve no doubt that there are many other senior members of the governing party who know a lot that should come before the commission, who have not come before the commission.
I know there are others who have come before the commission, and we are grateful for what they have done. But there are many others I have no doubt, that we have not come before the commission.
And because they don’t come to the commission to give evidence, to give information to the commission, they are failing to contribute to a solution to some of these problems of state capture and corruption in our country.
But, I thank you for the contribution that you are making. There will be people who will come in, they’ll give evidence and they will, some of them maybe will say that what you have said is not true and whatever. And I’ve made no findings about what you say is true or not. I’ll make findings later on.
But for the fact that you came here, and you said the things that you believe need to be said, you’ve shared with the commission your experiences. I’m grateful that you had the courage to do that.
And I just wish there were more people who would come and have the commission in that way. Thank you very much, Mr Molefe.