A South African commission charged with probing allegations of widespread corruption under the government of former President Jacob Zuma started its first public hearings on Monday in Johannesburg.
The body, which does not have prosecutorial powers but which can recommend legal action, was established in January by Zuma, just weeks before he was forced to resign in disgrace by his own party, the African National Congress.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will review allegations that the Gupta brothers, who headed one of the nation’s largest conglomerates, unduly influenced Zuma over political appointments and winning government contracts.
He also said the public’s response to his call to come forward with information relevant to the probe was “disappointing,” given the high level of public interest in the corruption allegations against the former president, his inner circle, and the Gupta family.
“We all know there are many people out there who know – and who have evidence – of some of things that were happening. This commission is an opportunity for all of us in the country to play a role, to contribute to finding a solution.”
“It is important that we find out who the culprits are and that the recommendations by the inquiry can be made so that, in a year or two years’ time, can put this state capture behind us”, he said.
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela, who tangled with Zuma for years over public money he used to upgrade his private estate, mandated that the president set up the commission of inquiry in a scathing report on corruption allegations against Zuma and his allies in 2016.
Several high-profile witnesses are expected to testify as the hearing gets underway, including former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, who has alleged that Ajay Gupta offered him money and the position of Finance Minister. Zuma and members of the Gupta family have denied any wrongdoing.