Jacob Zuma could face criminal charge after walking out on his ‘old friend’ Justice Zondo
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Johannesburg - Former president Jacob Zuma could face a criminal charge of contempt of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture following his walkout at the hearing, moments after his application for the recusal of the chairperson of the inquiry Justice Raymond Zondo was dismissed.
Commenting on Zuma’s decision to not comply with his summonses and instead to approach the high court to review Justice Zondo’s ruling, legal expert Paul Hoffman SC, said his decision to walk out was in contempt of the commission and he exposed himself to a criminal prosecution.
“The first thing that he must do to avoid prosecution, is to approach a court and seek an interdict preventing the commission from executing his arrest for contempt of the commission. He has to satisfy the court that he had a right to the interdict.
“He will be unable to convince the court. He must go to the commission to give his evidence or face a criminal trial,” Hoffman said.
Similar warnings were expressed by Benni Lekubu, from Unisa’s College of Law in Pretoria on Thursday. He said Zuma’s walkout on Thurday simply demonstrated that “he does not have respect for Justice Zondo. He does not have respect for the commission and the proceedings.”
As the commission was contemplating its next move on Zuma, Lekubu said it was likely to sit at the weekend and seek legal advice on the matter.
“The commission is different from a court of law. They can either decide to defend Justice Zondo’s ruling at Mr Zuma’s review application or to compel him to appear and testify before the commission,” Lekubu said.
“As the commission’s term of office is due to end in March 2021, it is important for the commission to compel Mr Zuma to testify and respond to 35 witnesses who implicated him in state capture. His evidence needs to be included in the report which is expected to be handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his decision.”
Following Zuma’s threats to report Justice Zondo to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Lekubu said he would not win his case.
On Thursday, Justice Zondo said that Zuma left the commission without his permission but stopped short of revealing what action he would take against him.
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.
Sikhakhane also informed the commission that they would report Justice Zondo to the JSC for being “a witness and judge in his own commission”.
When the commission went for a tea break, Zuma and Sikhakhane never returned.
In dismissing Zuma’s application for recusal, Justice Zondo said: “Mr Zuma has failed a test for a reasonable apprehension of bias and his application ought to be dismissed. It is accordingly dismissed.”
He also rejected Zuma’s version that he visited him at his official residence in Durban a few days after his appointment as a head of the commission. In Zuma’s affidavit submitted to the commission on Wednesday, he said Justice Zondo’s visit to his official residence was part of a continuation of their friendship but the commission chairperson denied this.
“Upon my appointment as head of the commission by the Chief Justice (Mogoeng Mogoeng), he informed me that the former president wanted to meet me. I had indeed visited him at his residence. It was an official meeting,” Justice Zondo said.
He also said it was too late for the former president to reject his appointment almost three years, later saying he should have raised the issue about their alleged friendship during the initial stages of his appointment.