President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a counter-bid to the state capture commission’s extension application, asking the court to clarify that he can decide when to publicly release the state capture commission report and that he is not bound to deliver it to parliament within two weeks of receipt.
Between state capture inquiry chairperson acting chief justice Raymond Zondo and Ramaphosa’s applications (if they both succeed), the public is unlikely to see the state capture commission’s report before the end of June next year.
Zondo urgently approached the court this week for yet another extension of the deadline to submit his report to Ramaphosa. The president said in his affidavit that this was Zondo’s sixth extension application and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) said it was his seventh.
This time, Zondo proposed that he would deliver his report in parts: part 1 before the end of December, part 2 before the end of January and part 3 before the end of February.
In his application, he said that part I would cover Transnet, SAA, SAAT and SA Express. “This is significant because, should the president decide to release part 1 of the report to the public in the meantime, the public will be informed of the findings and recommendations made by the commission in respect of the workstreams or topics that will be covered by part 1,” he said.
Similarly, the National Prosecuting Authority could “derive such assistance” from the report as they might need, he said.
But Ramaphosa said while he was not opposing Zondo’s extension application, he wanted to see the full report before he publicly released it and before he put it before parliament with a plan for how he was going to act on it.
He said: “There may be themes in the findings and recommendations that cut across all three parts of the SCC report and warrant a comprehensive, coherent analysis and response. That would not be possible on the fragmented and serialised approach suggested by the commission.”
He said this did not mean that, in the meantime, parts 1 and 2 would be “shelved”.
“Reading and analysis will start. But it would not be proper or appropriate or fair to expect me to formulate a comprehensive answer and implementation plan without sight of the complete report,” said the president.
However, the original court order from December 2017 said “the president shall submit a copy with an indication of his/her intentions regarding the implementation to parliament within 14 days of releasing the report”.
Ramaphosa said his understanding of this order was that it was his decision on when to publicly release the report; and that, thereafter, he had 14 days to submit it to parliament, together with his implementation plan.
But, said Ramaphosa, he had been advised that the wording was ambiguous. So he was asking for the court to declare that his understanding was correct. If he was wrong, he said, he wanted the court to give him four months from the delivery of the final report (part 3) by Zondo — to study it and formulate an implementation plan — before public release and delivering it to parliament.
The time would allow him to “consider the report, seek advice on its implications, consult with my colleagues in cabinet, in government and other relevant stakeholders, and to formulate policy with regard to the implementation of the report”.
He said based on how the commission had proceeded so far, he anticipated “a comprehensive report with many important findings and recommendations”.
“I should be given a reasonable and proper opportunity and time to consider the report and then formulate a response and implementation plan and communicate that to parliament.”
The applications are scheduled to be heard on Tuesday.