Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg. Picture: Reuters/Kim Ludbrook
Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg. Picture: Reuters/Kim Ludbrook

False pretences and denial: Drama as Zondo Commission adjourned

By Khanyisile Ngcobo Time of article published Jul 17, 2019

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Johannesburg - The commission of inquiry into state capture adjourned for the day following a dramatic day in which the commission was accused of being "unfair" and bringing former president Jacob Zuma in "under false pretences".

The drama began right at the beginning of proceedings when the Zuma's legal team took exception with evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius's attempts to question the former president further on former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) chief Themba Maseko's testimony, which was concluded on Tuesday. 

Zuma's legal representative, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC, objected to this, calling for a structure in the questions put to Zuma. "I think it's a procedural issue," Sikhakhane said.

 After some back and forth, Pretorius agreed to continue questioning Zuma on former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan's testimony, which began on Tuesday afternoon after the conclusion of Maseko's testimony, but not before complaining that he felt controlled in his questioning of the former president.

Zuma was then grilled on Hogan's claims that he had interfered in key appointments at State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). 

Hogan claimed that the former president had insisted on the appointment of Siyabonga Gama as Transnet CEO after Maria Ramos's resignation and Pravin Gordhan, the preferred candidate to succeed her, withdrawing his candidacy due to his appointment as finance minister. 

Zuma denied he'd insisted on Gama, especially as he was facing misconduct charges at the time, saying there was a process in place to deal with appointments. 

Commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and evidence leader Pretorius then attempted to press Zuma further on the matter, drawing the ire of his legal team, who slammed the duo for this "poor" line of questioning.

"This is poor... I know you said I can't tell you about how to do your jobs but I will now. I don't think it's fair to ask someone who was head of state to tell you the process of appointing people when you have Annexure D in front of you, telling you the process you are looking for."  

Proceedings then continued until the lunch break, and as soon as proceedings resumed, Zuma took the opportunity to voice his complaint regarding some of the questions he was being asked in relation to Gama's appointment.

This despite assertions he'd been "invited" to give his side of the story.

Zuma insisted that some of issues he was being questioned on fell within the ambit of officials and said that he felt he was being cross-examined. 

This resulted in a short adjournment during which his legal team and the commission's team ventilated these issues. 

Following this, Zondo returned and addressed the commission on the matter. 

"There has been a discussion involving me and legal team of the commission as well as the legal team for the former president. Both sides made a certain suggestion which I've agreed to. 

"This commission would like to make sure that, as far as possible, it takes everybody on board. At least it should make attempts to do so. The former president has expressed certain concerns and what has been agreed is that there should be an opportunity for both the commission's legal team and the former president's legal team to look at the concerns and see whether a way can be found in which they can be accommodated without the commission's legal team compromising the job that they need to do in terms of the investigation. 

Zondo said that for that reason, the decision was taken to adjourn proceedings till Friday to give both teams to find an acceptable compromise.

Zuma is expected to return to the commission on Friday.


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