Johannesburg - As former president Jacob Zuma takes the stand on Monday to respond to a raft of serious allegations levelled against him for the first time, some of his supporters are hoping to throw a spanner in the works.
The Star understands that a group of Zuma backers who call themselves “Concerned South African Citizens” are planning to petition Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to push for the expansion of the scope of the commission.
“We understand that the mandate of the commission was derived from the report by the former public protector, titled the ‘State of Capture’, but as a consequence the mandate of the commission is far too narrow, and actually fatally flawed,” the group claimed.
The group also accused Justice Zondo of factionalism in how he has conducted the commission’s work.
“We are making an earnest call to Justice Zondo to avoid entering the minefield of factional battles, which can only lead to the abuse of the judiciary,” the group said.
It added: “The manner in which he (judge) proceeds with the work of the commission will be of crucial overall importance.
“And it will also determine his own legacy. History will not judge any failure to address and correct the serious shortcomings of the mandate of the commission kindly.”
The group reiterated calls by the EFF for the commission to be moved out of the Tiso Blackstar building.
About 20 000 Zuma supporters are expected to gather outside the venue on Monday to show their solidarity.
The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) has already called on Zuma to deny everything, saying that the commission had no tangible proof against him.
“All this is based on allegations. It is done to parade Zuma as a bad person. They want him to implicate himself. He must deny (everything)
“It is their word against his. I would also deny everything,” said MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe, a staunch Zuma supporter.
By Sunday, the commission was putting the final touches to its logistics plan, which include putting up 30 toilets. Security is also to be tightened at the venue in Parktown, Johannesburg.
At the weekend, commission spokesperson Mbuyiselo Stemela said only 200 people would be allowed inside the venue.
“For those members of the public who will not be able to go into the venue at the hearing, arrangements will be made for them to watch the proceedings on large screens that will be put up at Pieter Roos Park, which is five minutes from the venue,” Stemela pointed out.
Zuma’s appearance before the commission comes after several high-profile figures have accused him of playing a central role in state capture, and of benefiting by facilitating the looting of state coffers by the Gupta family.
Those who implicated him included former Cabinet spokesperson Themba Maseko, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, among others.
Maseko testified that Zuma told him to help the Guptas who are at the centre of the investigations by the commission, as they wanted to secure government advertising for their media company.
Jonas testified that Zuma’s son, Duduzane, had invited him to a meeting with the Guptas in Saxonwold in 2015, where one of the brothers allegedly offered him R600million if he took up their offer of finance minister, after they revealed to him that Zuma was about to fire then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene.
Jonas also told the commission that before Zuma fired him and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan - then finance minister - there was hostility regarding their refusal to give the go-ahead to the controversial nuclear-build programme, which Zuma had wanted expedited with Russia.
Mentor, whose testimony was flagged for discrepancies, has testified that Zuma was in the next room at the Gupta compound in Saxonwold when the eldest Gupta brother, Ajay, told her of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, and offered her a ministerial post if she would work with the family.
Other explosive claims include that of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi, who alleged that Zuma accepted regular monthly payments of R300 000 cash to do the controversial company’s bidding as it was involved in multiple state contracts and avoided law-enforcement agencies.
Unlike other implicated parties, Zuma has not applied to cross-examine any of those who have fingered him in the state capture allegations. Last month, the commission revealed that its chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, had in April called on Zuma to appear before him on Monday to give his side of the story, but Zuma had insisted that he be furnished with the questions he would be asked in advance in order to prepare, which the commission rejected.
In a response through his lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, Zuma agreed to appear before the commission but not before accusing it and Justice Zondo of wanting to humiliate him.
“Our client remains of the view that the commission is prejudiced against him, and lacks the requisite impartiality,” Mantsha said.
Zuma’s staunch backers, Black First Land First (BLF), is planning to attend the hearing on Monday to follow Zuma’s testimony. BLF deputy president Zanele Lwana said the party, which had been staging demonstrations outside the courts in support of Zuma and Duduzane, would always stand by Zuma, as it believed he was being persecuted.
“We will go to the commission and listen to the proceedings. We have been supporting Zuma since 2016. This commission has been set up to target Zuma, and make him look the epitome of corruption,” Lwana said.
Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said Zuma’s appearance was the first step towards prison as punishment.