Public hearings into alleged government corruption during former president Jacob Zuma’s time in office have started in South Africa. A commission has been appointed to probe the allegations and the first hearings began on Monday, August 20th.
The commission has been mandated to investigate Zuma, his allies, and a wealthy business family known as the Guptas. The role players in the investigation are being accused of trying to influence the hiring and firing of government officials, among other allegations.
The commission does not have any prosecutorial powers, but it is capable of recommending legal action. The commission was established in January by Zuma himself, mere weeks before he was forced to resign in disgrace. His forced resignation was brought upon him by his own party, the African National Congress (ANC).
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela mandated that Zuma establish the commission in a scathing report on corruption allegations tied to Zuma and his allies in 2016. Madonsela rose to prominence after tangling repeatedly with Zuma over public money that was used to build, and upgrade, his private estate.
According to the Associated Press, Zuma, along with members of the Gupta family, have denied any wrongdoing.
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo has been chosen to head the commission. On Monday he revealed that the commission’s work has already been delayed owing to the state security agency. Zondo said the agency had dragged its feet in granting the security clearances needed to proceed with the investigations.
Zondo went on to say that the result from his call to the public to come forward with any information pertinent to the case had been “disappointing”. He pointed out the high level of public interest in the case because of the allegations levelled against the former president, his inner circle, and the Gupta family. "The response has not been what we expected," said Zondo.
"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."
Several high-profile witnesses are expected to testify as the hearing gets underway, including former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas.
Jonas has claimed that Ajay Gupta offered him money and the position of Finance Minister. Gupta has denied the allegations.