JOHANNESBURG: A public inquiry opened in South Africa on Monday, probing alleged corruption under scandal-tainted former president Jacob Zuma, who is accused of overseeing widespread graft during his nine-year reign.
The inquiry, which could take two years to deliver its findings, is set to hear evidence of allegations that Zuma let ministries and government agencies be plundered for private gain in a scandal known as “state capture”.
Much of the probe is expected to focus on Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas, a wealthy Indian family accused of wielding undue political influence.
An earlier report by a watchdog detailed allegations that Zuma ensured the Gupta family won preferential contracts with state companies, including huge mining deals, and were even able to choose cabinet ministers.
Zuma himself appointed the inquiry in January on the orders of a high court, weeks before he was forced to resign from office as criticism grew from within the ruling ANC party.
Zuma’s alleged involvement in multiple graft scandals damaged the party’s image ahead of elections next year.
His successor President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle corruption.
The inquiry will in part establish whether official appointments were “disclosed to the Gupta family or any other unauthorised person before such appointments were formally made,” said inquiry head Raymond Zondo, the country’s deputy chief justice.
Although the inquiry does not have powers to arrest or prosecute, it can refer matters for possible criminal investigation.
“At the heart of the investigation is whether outsiders influenced government or state-owned enterprises for selfish gain,” said the commission’s lead lawyer Paul Pretorius on the inquiry’s opening day.