The National Assembly has hit back at Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, saying It is “inappropriate” and wrong for a person representing one of the arms of the state to publicly attack Parliament.
It accused Zondo of speaking out of turn, failing to follow proper channels of communication between different arms of the state, creating an atmosphere of distrust and violating the principle of separation of powers by attacking both the National Assembly and the Executive led by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
On Thursday Zondo made unflattering remarks against Parliament during a Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) symposium themed “Post Zondo – The Future of Democracy”. The symposium was held in Pretoria, where Zondo took his audience through the four-year Commission of Inquiry Into Allegations Of State Capture, which he chaired during his tenure as Deputy Chief Justice.
He accused Parliament of failing to implement the recommendations of the state capture report, especially putting together measures to stop it and establishing an anti-state capture and anti-corruption commission.
Zondo’s utterances have incensed the National Assembly, led by Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Chairperson Amos Masondo. Parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo said the leadership of Parliament took serious exception to Zondo’s utterances.
“Parliament expresses shock and strong objection to the recent remarks made by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former head of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, about Parliament. It is inappropriate for the Chief Justice, representing one of the arms of the state, to engage in public attacks on Parliament.
“We note that the attacks are also directed at the executive in so far as the current policy position of the electoral system is concerned. This is in the wake of a matter that is before the court on the electoral system. We believe that utilising the established channels to address any concerns he may have regarding Parliament’s implementation of the commission’s recommendations would have been more appropriate,” said Mothapo.
Mothapo said it was incorrect for someone in Zondo’s position of power in the judiciary to make such statements.
“It is not the place of a Chief Justice to make such public remarks unless and until he is required to adjudicate on a matter with impartiality. The principle of separation of powers is fundamental to our democracy, and it requires each branch of government to respect the roles and responsibilities of the others.
“Chief Justice Zondo’s public attack on Parliament encroaches on this doctrine. It is crucial to provide Parliament with the necessary space to fulfill its obligations, which it is implementing, guided by the recommendations put forth by the Commission,” he said.
Mothapo said Parliament was also in the process of researching international best practices of how best MPs can strengthen oversight over the presidency.
“Had the Chief Justice reached out to Parliament with his concerns, he would have been comprehensively apprised of all the ongoing work. The criticism made by Chief Justice Zondo against Parliament is therefore unfortunate, lacks merit and undermines the principles of separation of powers,” Mothapo said.
“As the head of the judiciary, it is essential for the Chief Justice to foster an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.”
Zondo told a symposium this week that state capture can still happen in future because Parliament failed to implement his recommendations to stop it and hold the executive accountable.
“The Commission in its report detailed various instances during the Gupta state Capture where Parliament, the National Assembly, failed to take steps that would have made sure that state capture was exposed early and that would have made sure that it was stopped before South Africans lost over R58 billion.
“I have said before that if another group of people were to do exactly what the Guptas did to pursue state capture, Parliament would still not be able to stop it. That is because I have seen nothing that has changed. If Parliament won’t be able to protect the interests of the people, who will protect the people?” said Zondo.
He said the only way to achieve a state capture-free environment is for the electorate to have more power than the MPs.
“The other possibility is one that the Commission has pointed out in its report. There should be a standing anti-state capture and anti-corruption Commission that works the same way as the Commission that I was honoured to chair.
“This Commission can call anybody, whether it is the president, or any member of Parliament or any minister to come and answer questions where there are allegations of corruption and state capture,” Zondo said.
“Even if the majority in Parliament does not waste certain questions to be asked, in that Commission there would be full opportunity for everything to be explored. At least there would be nothing that could be swept under the carpet.”