Former South African president Jacob Zuma Picture: Rogan Ward Reuters
Former South African president Jacob Zuma Picture: Rogan Ward Reuters

Battle lines drawn over state capture allegations

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Jan 14, 2021

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VERNON MCHUNU

DURBAN - THE battle lines have been drawn between former president Jacob Zuma and the commission of inquiry into state capture, political analysts said yesterday.

This is after the commission, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, wrote a letter to Zuma and his legal team, purportedly to remind the former president that he is still expected to take the stand next week, even though the Constitutional Court may not have ruled on the matter.

Zuma’s spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, said the former president was still engaging with his legal team before a decision would be announced today.

“He is still in consultation with his attorneys. We will make an announcement,” he said.

The commission had, on December 29, approached the highest court in the land after Zuma and his legal team dramatically walked out of the sitting during which Zondo dismissed their application for his recusal, which was lodged on the basis that “Zondo could have shown bias against the former president”.

His legal representative Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, had threatened that should Zuma be obliged to appear before Zondo, he would instruct his client to remain silent on the stand. The ConCourt’s ruling on the matter is still pending.

Before the apex court case, Zondo had issued summons for Zuma to take the stand.

This week, the commission’s secretary, Itumeleng Mosala, wrote to Zuma and his attorney Eric Mabuza.

“The commission wishes to make sure that there is no confusion on your part about your obligation to comply with the summons requiring you to appear before it on January 18-22, 2021,” the letter reads.

In terms of the summons, Zuma is to make a further appearance before the commission from February 15 to 19.

“It is possible that the Constitutional Court might not have handed down its judgment by January 18, 2021, when, in terms of the summons, you are supposed to appear before the commission,” Mosala wrote.

“The commission wishes to make clear to you that, even if the court has not handed down its judgment by January 18, you are obliged to comply with the summons and appear before it because the summons remains valid and binding on you because it has not been withdrawn, set aside or suspended.

“Therefore the commission wishes to make clear to you that any failure on your part, without sufficient cause, to appear before it from January 18 to 22, 2021, will constitute a criminal offence.”

Political analyst Khaya Sithole described as unconventional the move by the commission to send a letter of reminder, even though the summons have been already issued, saying that this was simply a public show, and a gathering of future legal ammunition, that no stone has been left unturned in accommodating Zuma to give evidence on state capture allegations.

“The Zondo commission has had far too many lapses where witnesses aren’t given notification on time and if they are, all the other people implicated aren’t given due notification. The importance of Zuma’s testimony is such that they cannot afford to have any more lapses,” Sithole said.

Sithole said for the commission to issue a letter now was simply to put together an arsenal of evidence to be used in possible subsequent court cases to confirm that Zondo went all out to enable the appearance of Zuma.

Constitutional expert and political analyst Somadoda Fikeni said he expected Zuma to continue to delay his appearance until the expiry date of the commission, which was due to wrap up at the end of March.

“Many people have given evidence that either implicates him directly or indirectly, or implicates people around him. So he is not going to be freely available to take the stand and answer many of those serious allegations,” said Fikeni.

“I see a series of court cases that will happen before the end of the commission and possibly even after the commission’s term has ended,” he said.

The Mercury

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