Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane and her office have officially washed their hands of state capture, handing over the mammoth task of investigating the allegations solely to the judicial commission of inquiry headed by Judge Raymond Zondo.
Lack of funding
In a lengthy statement on Thursday, which consisted of more than 2,000 words, Mkhwebane outlined the reasons for which her office cannot pursue investigations into state capture and corruption, one of them being a lack of resources and funds.
"My office has not been properly resourced, despite the important role it plays in South Africa. The Public Protector remains one of the most independent corruption busters and Chapter Nine institutions. However, Parliament has failed to properly resource this institution," she said.
"In the current financial year, despite the fact that I have requested and motivated for a budget of at least R1-billion, the National Treasury has cut this institution's budget by R8-million. As a result of the above and considering the nature of the issues to be traversed and available resources, my will not be able to properly investigate all the allegations of state capture, as reported after the publication of the state capture report."
She also clarified an earlier statement where she called upon President Jacob Zuma to ensure that the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the inquiry are not limited to the issues investigated or identified in the "State of Capture" report.
"This statement has been misinterpreted in various media reports and by commentators. The publication of the statement was intended to suggest that all related allegations of state capture are investigated by the commission and that the commission's work is not limited to those identified for investigation in the state of capture report," she said.
Mkhwebane proposed that allegations of state capture should be investigated in two phases:
1. Deal with issues investigated in the State of Capture report and also focus on those issues identified and reserved for the next phase of investigation in the state of capture report, within 90 days.
2. Focus on the state of capture complaints lodged with the office of the Public Protector subsequent to the publication of the report and so-called "Gupta emails leaks" published in the media subsequent to the publication of the report. Phase two should be completed within 90 days, calculated from the date of publication of the findings on phase one.
What it all means
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela's "State of Capture" report, which was published in 2016, dealt mainly with the alleged breach of the Executive Member Ethics Act (1998) and the awarding of contracts by certain organs of state to entities linked to the Gupta family.
It focused mainly on the relationship between the Guptas and Zuma, and whether the president had allowed the family to influence the removal and appointment of Cabinet members and directors and board members at state-owned enterprises.
Eskom, Transnet, Denel, SAA and the SABC were some of the SOEs that came up. But this was all before the leak of thousands of emails from within the Gupta business empire, now known as the Gupta Leaks.
So, Mkhwebane is advising that the first phase of the inquiry deals solely with the matters brought up in the "State of Capture" report. The second phase must then deal with the Gupta Leaks and all the allegations that stemmed from such.
The second phase must also deal with complaints about state capture received by her office. This includes allegations and scandals surrounding appointments at Eskom, kickbacks at Transnet and the role of ministers in state capture.
"Deputy chief justice Zondo must investigate all the issues using the record of the investigation and the 'State of Capture' report as a starting point... My view is that the report and judgment do not limit the issues to be investigated, but provide the starting point for the commission," she said.
"It is my further view that all the issues, as identified for investigation, reserved for investigation on the next phase and any other related issues to those identified and reserved, as reported in the media, (so-called "Gupta leaks") need to form part of the Commission's Terms of Reference."
Mkhwebane will still monitor the process to see if it complies with Madonsela's recommendations.