What the Zondo commission’s criminal charges mean for Jacob Zuma
Cape Town - Judge Raymond Zondo on Monday said he would lay a criminal charge against former president Jacob Zuma for absconding from the commission on state capture last week and also seek a court order obliging him to comply in future.
"The decision by Mr Zuma to leave the commission without permission and in the face of a valid and binding summons is a serious matter," Zondo said.
"As long as the summons stood it was binding and it was not up to him to excuse himself. Nevertheless Mr Zuma did excuse himself.”
Zondo said he had instructed the secretary of the commission, Itumeleng Mosala, to lay a charge with the police "so that the police can investigate his conduct in this regard" and would also make all relevant information to the case to the National Prosecuting Authority.
He said he would furthermore determine new dates for Zuma to testify and have summons served on former president to that effect.
"I am going to determine other dates when Mr Zuma must appear before the commission," he said.
But Zondo went further and said the commission would approach the Constitutional Court directly on an urgent basis to seek an order compelling Zuma to respect the summons and to supply the commission with outstanding affidavits sought from him.
This unusual move would mean that, if successful, Zuma would be in contempt of court if he failed to appear on the set dates or failed to submit the affidavits and would therefore risk arrest.
Zondo said it was important to deal with Zuma's defiance because it might send a signal to other witnesses who may not be comfortable in testifying and may now think that they "can come and go as they please before this commission".
Zuma had been summonsed to appear before the commission for five days last week.
However, he responded by bringing an application for Zondo to recuse himself.
When Zondo dismissed the application on Thursday, Zuma and his lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane staged a walkout, after signalling that they would not only seek to have the decision reviewed but lay a complaint against the judge with the Judicial Services Commission.
Zondo said the court order would imply that when Zuma appeared before the commission eventually, he would not be allowed to “leave the proceedings without my permission.”
Monday’s announcement ups the stakes in the stand-off between the commission and the former president, who is no stranger to legal obstruction.
In his corruption trial, Zuma came close to finding himself in contempt of court for submitting an inadequate medical certificate and failing to appear.
Constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos said it appeared that the commission was approaching the Constitutional Court directly because of the likelihood that Zuma would appeal an order made by the high court, and there will then be a delay before the matter goes to the apex court in any event.
But he ventured that it was not certain the commission would succeed as it would have to show not only urgency but that the Constitutional Court has exclusive jurisdiction in the matter.
African News Agency (ANA)