A civil society activist shows her support for the Zondo Commission of Enquiry into State Capture
A civil society activist shows her support for the Zondo Commission of Enquiry into State Capture

Civil society groups call for action on Zuma walk-out

By Tanya Waterworth Time of article published Nov 21, 2020

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Durban - Civil society groups came out in action in Durban on Friday against former President Jacob Zuma walking out of the Zondo Commission on Thursday.

On Thursday, Zuma walked out of the commission after state capture inquiry chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo dismissed Zuma's application for his recusal from the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture.

Zuma’s legal counsel, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, said after the dismissal of the application that they would take the matter for review in the high court.

Zuma’s walkout led to the commission adjourning and it is set to resume on Monday. However Zuma’s legal team also indicated that they would be taking the matter up for review with the Justice Service Commission (JSC).

Yesterday, the Jacob Zuma Foundation slammed Zondo and the commission’s evidence leaders, claiming that they were working with sinister forces against Zuma.

“We commend President Zuma for risking it all in order not to legitimize an irregular process disguised as a legitimate commission,” the foundation said.

The JG Zuma Foundation also made a call on “all supporters of President Zuma” to back him “as he faces proceedings being plotted by the evidence leaders and the chairperson irregularly assisted by Ngcukaitobi SC, who also represents other parties appearing before the same commission”.

“We know that President Zuma and his team took a brave stance because they were not prepared to be bullied and elected to terminate their participation regardless of the risk of contempt proceedings.

“President Zuma assures us that he would rather face jail than allow himself to be bullied by an irregular, manipulated and unlawful process. We hope that the chairperson is aware that those pulling the strings behind the scenes do not have his interests at heart and will drop him as quickly as they picked,” added the foundation.

Yesterday's protests in the Bluff, Chatsworth, Glenwood, Morningside, as well as in KwaDakuza, Umkomaas and Pietermaritzburg were all part of the #Orange Mask Campaign (OMC) launched in September to hold politicians and public officials to account for corruption.

The OMC campaign, described as a “social partnership” of more than 25 civil society groups across the country, was sparked by alleged corruption connected to Covid-19 tenders.

The campaign includes high profile civil society organisations such as the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Joe Slovo Foundation, Section 27 and Right2Know, as well as the South African Tamil Federation, the South African Council of Churches and the Union of Muslim Students' Association, OUTA, Active Citizens’ Movement, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Merebank Justice Network, among others, and calls for public support by wearing an orange mask on Fridays.

Yesterday afternoon, KZN Right2Know co-ordinator, Burton Jaganathan who was at the Bluff protest, said they were calling on the Zondo Commission to sanction Jacob Zuma for his walk-out, as well as former SAA chairperson, Dudu Myeni for naming a protected witness.

"We don't want a situation where there is allowed to be disdain towards the Zondo Commission," said Jaganathan.

The Active Citizens' Movement's (ACM) Ben Madokwe said: "The OCM campaign encourages everyone to wear orange masks on Fridays to show they are anti-corruption.

"This is aimed towards all corrupt officials, not just the former president, but we are highlighting Zuma's conduct in the commission and how he is playing hide and seek.

"Those who are implicated in corruption must face the full might of the law.

"We want to make it fashionable for everyone to wear an orange mask on a Friday and to make it not fashionable to be corrupt in South Africa," he said.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) Des D'Sa said: "We are fully behind Deputy Chief Justice Zondo. We know him to be a very honourable and fair person.

"We support the commission as we are deeply concerned about the looting of state coffers since 2009, which has resulted in huge unemployment, increased poverty and lack of services for the poorest of the poor.

"Zondo's work is of a critical nature for each one of us in South Africa to understand the depth and nature of the corruption. The undermining of this commission can never be tolerated and we trust the Deputy Chief Justice to do the right thing, without fear or favour," said D'Sa.

Also yesterday ((Fri)), OUTA (Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse) called on the commission to take action against Zuma over his abrupt walk-out of proceedings.

OUTA executive director, advocate Stephanie Fick, said: "No-one can excuse themselves from the commission after being summonsed, as they must be granted permission by the commission. This is deemed a criminal offence, and we believe the Deputy Chief Justice needs to act decisively to ensure no precedent is set for others. No-one is above the law, including the former president.

“South Africa has suffered enough under Jacob Zuma's term of presidency, and this commission was set up to get to the bottom of state capture, a matter to which he has been central. We are calling on the Zondo Commission to take action against Jacob Zuma for contempt," said Fick.

Benni Lekubu, from Unisa’s College of Law in Pretoria, said the commission would likely seek legal advice on the matter over the weekend.

Independent on Saturday

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