Zuma vs Zondo: 25-year-old relationship at heart of ex-president’s bias claims
Johannesburg - Putting an end to weeks of speculation, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo yesterday confirmed claims that he had a child with former president Jacob Zuma’s sister-in-law.
On September 28, The Star sent questions to Judge Zondo and Zuma probing them about the rumours.
Jacob Zuma Foundation chairperson Dudu Myeni said: “Zondo knows the truth. He must tell the nation the truth.”
Judge Zondo’s sudden confession follows claims by Zuma’s attorney Eric Mabuza that the deputy justice was biased against his client due to their historical and family relations.
Yesterday, Judge Zondo admitted that he had a child with the sister of Zuma’s estranged wife Thobeka Madiba when he was in his thirties.
“In the mid-1990s – that is about 25 years ago – when I was in my thirties and was still in private practice as a lawyer – I got into a relationship with a certain woman out of which a child was born. That relationship ended during the 1990s,” Zondo said.
He said he could not have known at the time that the former first lady would be married to Zuma years later.
“To my knowledge Zuma had no relationship with Ms Thobeka Madiba in the mid-1990s. That Mr Zuma happened to marry the sister of a woman with whom I had had a relationship that ended so many years before that marriage has never had any bearing on the execution of my judicial functions in the many matters involving Zuma in which I have sat as a Justice of the Constitutional Court since 2012. Nor does it have any bearing on the execution of my duties as chairperson of the commission,” he said.
He said in none of the many matters involving Zuma, in which he has sat in the past, has Zuma ever expressed any complaint or concern nor has he ever brought an application for his recusal.
Judge Zondo said he thought it was necessary to clarify the rumour.
“I do not at this stage intend to address any of the other allegations made in Zuma’s attorney’s letter as I will deal with them if and when Zuma’s application for my recusal is lodged.”
According to the commission, it is now more than a month since Zuma threatened to lodge an application for Judge Zondo’s recusal and he will respond to the allegations properly once that application has been lodged.
In Zuma’s letter last month, he asked Judge Zondo to recuse himself because
Zuma believes he is biased against him and if he stays on to chair his testimony, he is likely to allow historic issues between them to cloud his objectivity.
Zuma’s letter followed days of public rebukes directed at Judge Zondo for the way he handled the summoning of Zuma to appear before the commission.
“Viewed in the context of previous media statements, the conduct of the chairperson and treatment of (former) president Zuma by the commission, the chairperson’s utterances have left President Zuma with the distinct impression that the chairperson seeks to target him for special treatment and public humiliation.
“(Former) President Zuma believes that the source of the chairperson’s bias against him stems from the fact that president and the chairperson have historical personal, family and profes
sional relations that ought to have been publicly disclosed by the chairperson before accepting his appointment,” read the letter.
Revisiting the issue of Judge Zondo allegedly using press conferences to “rebuke” Zuma, the lawyers said their client was being brandished in a bad light. “The chairperson’s election to reserve media conferences for (former) president Zuma attests to the fact that he seeks to portray him as unco-operative and belligerent in the eyes of the public. No other witness has been subjected to such public rebuke through the media.
“It has become commonplace for the commission to parade a particular narrative through witnesses and to treat certain witnesses, particularly those who implicate (former) president Zuma, with deference.
“It is apparent to (former) president Zuma that the commission seeks to entrench a narrative that portrays him as guilty at all costs.”
Zuma’s lawyers and supporters are said to be adamant that Judge Zondo must recuse himself.
At the commission’s hearing yesterday, testimony was heard that former Denel group chief executive Zwelakhe Ntshepe allegedly pressured one of the state-owned aerospace and military technology company’s subsidiaries to give away its business to a Gupta-owned firm.
Denel Vehicle Systems (DVS) legal and commercial executive Carene Geldenhuys said Denel’s wholly-owned division was instructed through Ntshepe to prepare a memorandum for DVS to contract Gupta-owned VR Laser.
She said the instruction came through DVS chief executive Johan Steyn.
DVS drew up a high-level, non-binding and non-committal agreement to explore avenues to, in future, collaborate with VR Laser.
According to Geldenhuys, Ntshepe was not happy with the agreement’s contents and stated that this was not what was requested.
Instead, she said, Ntshepe insisted that he wanted a deal guaranteeing that there will be work going to VR Laser.
“This agreement is not what they wanted. He was angry,” said Geldenhuys.