While more colloquially – and perhaps most appropriately – referred to as the State Capture Commission, this judicial commission of inquiry will investigate allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector. At the heart of all these charges looms the heavy hand of former President Zuma, his offspring and cronies. They have extracted the heaviest of prices on the nation, leaving South Africa bankrupt and bereft.

The Commissioners include Judge Raymond Zondo, former Auditor-General Terence Nombembe and Advocates Paul Pretorius SC, Vincent Maleka SC, Leah Gcabashe SC and Thandi Norman SC. They have the unenviable task of unearthing key issues, in addition to those identified in former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture. While much of what is to be investigated will identify the material damage wrought on South Africa, Zuma’s vicious cycle of ruin has eroded trust and that most vital of values, nation-building. Higher unemployment, poverty and capital flight because of corruption and state capture can be costed to a degree. However, the non-material damage or the sharpening social tensions that have been unleased over the last decade need as much care and reconstruction – if South Africa is to survive and grow.

While the work of the Zondo Commission is most welcome, it will finalise its task in early 2020. An interregnum is not an option for South Africa. The work of rebuilding the fabric of the country must commence post-haste, especially in the light of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s turnaround strategy. His ‘New Deal’, at its core, leans heavily on public participation and a diminution of factors that corrode social capital. Rebuilding social capital requires much effort and while the term may be an amorphous one, David Garson writes in a publication for Harvard University that, “Social capital may be defined as those resources inherent in social relations which facilitate collective action. Social capital resources include trust, norms, and networks of association representing any group which gathers consistently for a common purpose. A norm of a culture high in social capital is reciprocity, which encourages bargaining, compromise, and pluralistic politics. Another norm is belief in the equality of citizens, which encourages the formation of cross-cutting groups.

There are no winners in a divided, broken country as South Africans have realised. Upping the ante and rhetoric about racism and white monopoly capital has cost the country dearly. Many will testify before the Zondo Commission in the coming weeks and months, including Advocate Thuli Madonsela and former MP, Vytjie Mentor. Their testimonies will inform us and supplement the crucial role that independent media and other civil society actors have played, together with whistle-blowers, in exposing the havoc wrought on South Africa. We can hope that the Commission will exercise its full powers and refer its findings to the relevant law enforcement authorities for further investigation and prosecution.

The supplemental work to the Zondo Commission is that of how we recreate social capital and national unity, which is that most vital of foundations to rebuild the country. While the truth about the extent of state capture may set us free, the urgent question is, what will fix us? As the Business Day editorial of 20 August states, “the optimistic view could be that the Zondo Inquiry will buy us time to rebuild the capacity and statue of the Hawks, South Africa’s elite crime fighting unit, the SA Revenue Services and the NPA, institutions that are key to enable the successful prosecution of commercial crimes”.

However, the long lead time before any action can be taken against the alleged perpetrators of these crimes may render the outcome of the Zondo Commission less than optimal. In the interim, the task of nation-building awaits.

By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director

Image credit: www.sastatecapture.org.za

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