NATIONAL NEWS - In a scathing warning on corrupt government officials, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo – in a closing statement on the second day of former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) board chairperson Popo Molefe’s testimony at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture – sketched a picture of why public representatives fail to take a stand against graft.
During his testimony, Molefe claimed government during Zuma’s reign as president turned a blind eye to the capture of Prasa, with multibillion-rand deals being approved without scrutiny.
Referring to Molefe, Zondo said: “You might not have covered yourself in glory by saying certain things in the eyes of certain people. But I think, certainly, a lot of what you have said needed to be said.
“And in the eyes of those who put the interests of the country first and in the eyes of those who are really committed to serving the public – serving the poor – some of the things you have said should make them very happy.
“Part of what you have said raises issues that I continue to be concerned with as I look at what this commission is doing, what it should be doing and what areas it should be focusing on.”
For quite some time, Zondo said, he had been placing a lot of emphasis on the issue of the role of parliament in terms of oversight.
“But it may be that part of the problem is that if a senior official within the governing party, for example, is aware that another senior member of the governing party or a leader is involved in wrongdoing, he or she will be afraid to do what is right,” said Zondo.
“He or she may be afraid to take that stand because maybe they need that leader in order to progress in their political career.
“And if I am a member of the governing party and I see that somebody within the party, in government or in the executive, whether the person is president or whether the person is a minister, and I know my obligation to hold them to account, I get scared.
“If I stand up and do my job properly in parliament, in keeping with the oath of office that I’ve taken when I became a member of government. That oath effectively says I need to put the country first and the people first. But, I decide not to do my job properly because I can’t be minister, I can’t be deputy minister, I can’t be chairperson of a portfolio committee if I displease these people.
“If I ask them difficult questions, they are going to ask me if I am a member of the party or a member of the opposition.
“Here is a board that is supposed to have enough members, to have a quorum.
“He or she is not appointing those members.
“The board has to go to court in order to get the job done that is supposed to be done by an organ of state. I don’t say anything, even if I’m aware, because I read about these things in the newspapers.
“This is the sad truth because I know that if I raise those things, I’m going to be unpopular within government, within the executive or within the governing party.”