Former president Jacob Zuma. Picture: Africa News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - On Monday the man fingered in testimony by senior government officials and ministers is set to appear at the Zondo commission and, while Jacob Zuma is likely to claim it is all a political plot, he could be in for a tough time.

In the 130 days of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Zondo Raymond has heard testimony that hints that the former president was the hand guiding state capture, that he leant on individuals to help the Gupta brothers, tried to fast track the nuclear deal with Russia and orchestrated the looting of parastatals.

Now it appears that the public will finally see Zuma at the commission, answering to allegations of state capture that saw the destruction of state institutions and billions looted. Ironically Zuma will appear before the commission he signed into existence last year.

On Friday, the former president told SABC news: “Truthfully, I was called by the commission to come ‘say my piece’, so we will meet there”.

Opinion is divided over what Zuma is likely to say or reveal at the commission.

Political analyst Professor Shadrack Gutto said Zuma would find it hard to duck questions.

“As it is a commission of inquiry he would be expected to answer every question put to him. They will be of a more narrow focus and he really won’t be able to play a game of ignorance, because as head of state, intelligence and head of cabinet he can’t just be obstinate about everything. But he won’t come out guns blazing,” said Gutto.

Zuma appearing before the commission has another significance, as outlined by Professor Mark Swilling.

“The importance of Zuma testifying before the commission should not be underestimated. It will set a precedent that will either show that those who abuse power will be held to account or that the cycle of impunity will continue, reinforcing the unjust systems that enable state capture,” he wrote in an article.

And while Gutto believes Zuma might be in for some tough questioning, political analyst Daniel Silke said the commission would probably see Zuma continue with the narrative that he is the target of political trickery and that state capture doesn’t exist.

“We are likely to see a spirited defence of his role as president of South Africa. In all likelihood he is likely to distance himself from the concept of state capture.

Zuma had said: “There are people who did things to others in one form or the other and you can call it in any other name not this big name ‘state capture.’”

But while Zuma’s involvement in state capture has been alluded to in previous testimony, Silke said the problem was that no direct evidence has yet emerged. The arms deal trial has clearer charges directed at Zuma.

Allegations raised at the Zondo commission are unlikely to stick to the former president, and will be directed at others.

“It is likely to be the senior officials at state enterprises that are going to feel the heat. Jacob Zuma remains relatively protected, he remains some distance away from being directly fingered. That is, given the evidence so far,” said Silke.

Saturday Star