Zuma versus Zondo battle heats up
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Johannesburg – A war of words is looming between former president Jacob Zuma and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Thursday after Zuma submitted an affidavit to the commission of inquiry into state capture that he had influenced Justice Zondo’s appointment as a judge in 1997.
This is contained in an affidavit submitted by Zuma challenging a statement Justice Zondo made on Monday in which he said the two were not friends and Zuma had played no role in his appointment.
In his affidavit, Zuma said he was the national chairperson of the ANC in 1997, which entitled him, during the Nelson Mandela presidency, to be part of government discussions about the appointment of black people to the bench.
He was reacting to Justice Zondo’s statement, read out during the commission sitting on Monday, in which the judge rejected claims of Zuma’s involvement in his appointment.
Despite Zondo’s denial of friendship and influence, Zuma’s affidavit drew a different picture.
In his affidavit, he said “during President Mandela’s administration, the African National Congress was consulted on a wide range of issues regarding judicial appointments”.
Zuma said while there was a need to transform the judiciary, there was a shortage of black legal practitioners who could ascend to the bench.
“I understand that in referring to me as ‘only an MEC’ the chairperson is attempting to downplay my role in order to demonstrate that he couldn’t have relied on me for his ascendancy.
“It is common cause that at the time I was also the national chairperson of the ANC and the provincial chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal.
“These were indeed positions of influence within the ruling party, the ANC. Accordingly, his attempt to communicate that I was insignificant in the national political arena is untrue,” he said.
Zuma also disputed Justice Zondo’s statement that he has never been at his official residence during his presidency.
The former president said after Justice Zondo was selected by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to preside over the commission of inquiry into state capture, the two met at his official residence in Durban.
In his replying affidavit, Zuma insisted the two were friends, saying when Zondo visited him at his Forest Town house, he warned him about the consequences of their friendship. “We discussed, amongst other things, how our friendship, if not managed properly, could jeopardise his judicial ambitions or rise within the ranks of the judiciary.”
Zuma’s replying affidavit was submitted a few hours before Justice Zondo was due to deliver his judgment on Zuma’s application for his recusal on the grounds that the judge had treated some of the witnesses who testified against him with kid gloves.
Due to Zuma’s submissions on Wednesday, the commission secretary, Professor Itumeleng Mosala, issued a statement in which he informed the public the judgment would be delivered on Thursday.