File Picture: Jacob Zuma
File Picture: Jacob Zuma

Experts differ on Zuma’s decision to defy ConCourt

By Mphathi Nxumalo Time of article published Feb 4, 2021

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Durban - LEGAL and political experts have entered the fray with differing views on the events of the past few days over the Zondo Commission announcing it planned to open a criminal “complaint” against former president Jacob Zuma.

Zuma had said he would defy a Constitutional Court ruling that he had to appear before the Zondo Commission that was tasked with investigating allegations of state capture.

Senior researcher at the Xubera Institute Xolani Dube, called the whole commission into question and said it was about a political faction that was getting back at Zuma and the Guptas.

He said since Zuma was not co-operating, the commission had been thrown into chaos.

Dube pointed out that it was not only Zuma who had refused to appear before the commission, but Naspers too.

He said the commission was “essentially a waste of taxpayers’ money that looked into ANC issues”.

Dube said in South Africa there was no secret service agency, but an ANC information gathering desk which had become a state agency.

He said the country had effectively been ruled by commissions of inquiry because of a lack of leadership.

Earlier this week, the former president released a letter citing his reasons for not coming to the commission. He said he would not go as long as it was chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma last year made an application for Zondo to recuse himself saying the chairperson of the commission was downplaying their relationship. Zuma said the Constitutional Court had been politicised and likened it to the apartheid government.

Legal expert William Booth said everyone knew that the Concourt said Zuma had to appear at the Zondo Commission and that Zuma could not invoke his right to silence.

Booth said Zuma had a right to not answer questions that might incriminate him, but he would have to give reasons why. “If he does not appear then he would be in contempt of court. An important question was whether he was a suspect or not. If one looked at the evidence, then it seemed indeed he was a suspect. If he was a suspect then he had a right to keep silent and not incriminate himself. This was something that the Constitutional Court did not deal with and the matter was unique,” said Booth.

Another problem, he said, was that it could set a precedent where people would refuse to honour subpoenas and refer to Zuma’s defiance as an example. “It filters all the way down to the ordinary man in the street,” he said.

Political expert Professor Sipho Seepe said: “It was a tactical error by the former president to take the stand he has chosen as he has given ammunition to many people who are against him.”

Seepe said when the Concourt made its decision it should have looked at the entire terms of reference of the commission and realised that there was a political vendetta against Zuma and that he was being isolated.

He said he felt Zuma was right that he felt targeted.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said Zuma should be left alone. He said he could not speak on behalf of Zuma, but that the former president had his rights. In an interaction with journalists in Joburg, Magashule said: “Why should we suspend someone who believes what he believes in?”

He also was unaware of any wrongdoing by Zuma.

Daily News

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