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Corruption Watch is releasing three new episodes of its podcast series titled Zondo Commission Unpacked, to mark a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his government’s response to the commission’s recommendations. On 23 October 2022 Ramaphosa released the 77-page plan of implementations which would be put into action – but has this happened?

Listen to episode 1 here.

A year after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced government’s plans to act on the recommendations of the commission of inquiry into state capture, legislative reform that supports their implementation is moving at a snail’s pace, while Parliament is not showing signs of strengthening its governance mechanisms to meet the pressures of responding to state capture.  

We featured the executive director of the Council for the Advancement of the Constitution, Lawson Naidoo, in the first of three new episodes of Corruption Watch’s Zondo Commission Unpacked podcast series. Naidoo shared his sentiments on events of the past year, reflecting on the work of government institutions tasked with responding to the commission’s damning findings last year.

One area of focus for civil society organisations, Naidoo said, should be the legislative reform that came about as a result of the recommendations by commission chairperson, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. As much as there is a need for legislative reform as per Zondo’s findings, South Africans must be cautious, however, that it takes time to change laws to get them to the point where they are fit for purpose.

“The [Public Procurement] bill that is currently before Parliament falls far short of what is required to really strengthen the procurement system in the country, [but] I think it is a start. And through the parliamentary process we, as civil society, particularly have an opportunity to engage with the contents of the bill and make proposals to try and strengthen it,” Naidoo said.

“I think it’s something that’s probably going to be an ongoing piece of work… I don’t think we’re going to be able to fix the procurement system in one go, and we need to perhaps look at improving it incrementally.”

He added, “We want to avoid a situation where we take far too long developing legislation with policy proposals, as we have seen in the past.”

Equally worrying is the Electoral Amendment Act, which came into law earlier in the year. Its critics lament its failure to protect the interests of smaller political parties and independent candidates who may find themselves in Parliament after national elections. “It’s not a fit-for-purpose piece of legislation. It’s not a fit-for-purpose electoral system, and Parliament has bent over backwards to try and retain as much of the current system as they can, while accommodating independent candidates, as they were directed to do, in terms of the judgment of the Constitutional Court in the New Nation Movement case.”

Naidoo added that not just the ruling ANC has taken this position, but most of the larger parties currently represented in the National Assembly. They are favoured by the current electoral system, because it gives parties total control over their members.  

It is this culture of party bias that raises concern over the state of the national legislature, and its appetite to institute credible reforms to counter corruption and hold the executive to account. Zondo found Parliament to have failed in its duties to curb state capture when the first signs emerged in 2016. Earlier this year, he publicly denounced Parliament for its slow application of remedial mechanisms.

“There’s a reluctance on the part of both Parliament and government to really engage proactively on the recommendations, and only to do so when absolutely necessary. And I think this has hampered the level of public awareness around the issues, but perhaps more importantly, has led to public distrust – we have a commission of inquiry, we have a detailed report, but it appears that nobody’s really taking those recommendations seriously.

“That would be a very dangerous place to enter into because these recommendations that Zondo has made, certainly what I call the systemic recommendations, are not just about overcoming corruption and state capture, but also about strengthening the foundations of our democracy.”

Ultimately, Naidoo argues, government and Parliament will be judged on what they do, rather than on what they say.