Zuma 'to appear soon' when State Capture inquiry resumes at end of June
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo expects State Capture Commission hearings to resume at the end of June or the first week of July.
Zondo gave an update on the commission's work on Wednesday, admitting that the national lockdown had hampered work done by investigators and the legal team.
The commission last heard evidence from witnesses in early March and there were plans to resume hearings at the end of March and April, but the lockdown's extension had halted these plans.
Zondo said through the various lockdown levels 3 and 4, the extent of the commission's ability to work had differed as they have had to work remotely. But he said there was some work done by the commission's legal team during this time in compiling evidence to a limited extent.
When hearings were halted, the commission was dealing aviation and Prasa related evidence. Time is not on the commission’s side after it was provided with an extension by the High Court in January.
The extension gives the commission until March 31, 2021 to complete its work.
Zondo said the commission's plans to resume hearings at the end of June or early July and this was dependent on whether certain restrictions can be lifted.
Currently, there are issues with whether witnesses that reside outside of the Gauteng would be allowed to travel to the province to appear in person before the commission.
The chairperson said he prefers that testimonies be given in person and not virtually, but he has not ruled out the possibility that a virtual platform would be used to hear witnesses.
On questions of when high-profile witnesses such as former president Jacob Zuma will appear, Zondo said the former president will appear soon.
Zuma was due to appear at the inquiry for a second time in November last year, but his appearance was postponed after his legal team made pleas to Zondo asking for postponements citing his ill health.
There were questions from the commission's legal team on whether he should be summoned, that option was still being considered Zondo said.
On President Cyril Ramaphosa's appearance, the chairperson said the president was willing to appear and had been scheduled to appear in July, but would now likely testify towards the end of the year. Ramaphosa had previously indicated his willingness to testify.
"I had planned for President Ramaphosa to come to the commission in July. But with the fact that the lockdown has forced us to rearrange things that is not going to happen now.
"He welcomes the opportunity to appear before the commission. He will come at some stage in the second half of the year," Zondo said.
The commission will now focus solely on wrapping up the work it had begun doing before the lockdown. Zondo said the priority was being given to public protector matters that had been highlighted in the State of Capture report and were recommended for investigation by the commission.
These are matters that deal with the Gupta family and its entities. Zondo said the commission's investigators will now have to interview witnesses extensively and provide a transcript to him.
Witnesses will appear to confirm what they had told investigators, which will allow for more witnesses to be heard in a day and shorten the time given for oral evidence. He said such documents would be available to the public.
On whether he would issue an interim report, Zondo said he has never been opposed to this idea but that for now the commission was determined and focused on completing its work.
Dedicating time to draw up an interim report could cause confusion and eat up the commission's time, Zondo said.