Bar council warns Zuma foundation over attacks on Zondo commission, Ngcukaitobi
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CAPE TOWN - The General Council of the Bar of South Africa has lashed out at the JG Zuma Foundation for accusing renowned senior counsel Tembeka Ngcukaitobi of "irregularly assisting" the Zondo commission to take court action against the former president for refusing to testify before it.
In a sharply worded statement, the bar council said the foundation had launched a cynical attack on the rule of law itself, while the man it sought to defend had made plain that he would rather go to jail than obey a lawful summons.
"There is no warrant for unfounded, unrestrained extra-curial attacks on the commission or its personnel, or the legal counsel who participate in its proceedings," the bar council said.
"Given that the JG Zuma Foundation has furthermore failed to identify any other legitimate basis that could possibly give rise to these conclusions, the GCB condemns them as a dangerous, unjustified and cynical attack on the rule of law."
The statement came almost a week after the foundation issued a statement, on the day Zuma and his legal counsel stormed out of the commission, suggesting that a consultation between Ngcukaitobi and Zondo in the judge's office had been improper.
It said the renowned lawyer, who often represents the Economic Freedom Fighters, had been "irregularly assisting" the commission as it "plotted" proceedings against Zuma.
This was on the day that Zondo dismissed an application for his recusal argued by advocate Muzi Sikhakhane for Zuma.
Sikhakhane stopped short of accusing the deputy judge president of bias, but suggested he had led witnesses who implicated the former president instead of hearing evidence impassively. This had contributed to Zuma's fears that coming before the commission would be akin to entering "a slaughterhouse".
Zondo later announced that he would deal with Zuma's defiance by issuing a fresh summons, laying criminal charges and seeking an urgent Constitutional Court order to compel the former president to respect the summons.
If successful, this would mean that Zuma would face arrest for contempt of court should he fail to respect the new summons.
Ngcukaitobi has been briefed by the commission secretariat to draft papers and handle the court application on behalf of the commission.
He could not be reached for comment on Thursday, but there have been reports that he has been hounded online since accepting the brief.
The bar council said the foundation's attack on a member of the legal profession was all the more reprehensible given the former president's attitude to his legal obligations.
"These comments are especially worthy of censure in circumstances where the statement itself indicates that Mr Zuma is prepared to 'face jail', and thus evidently recognises that his conduct in failing to comply with the commission’s subpoena and directions exposes him to prosecution and imprisonment."
– African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Yaron Blecher