Jacob Zuma’s walkout slammed as ‘disgraceful conduct’
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Durban - All eyes will be on Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday, especially his decision against former president Jacob Zuma for staging a dramatic walkout at the commission of inquiry.
Following Judge Zondo’s decision to reject Zuma’s application to recuse himself from presiding over the commission, Zuma and his legal counsel walked out, forcing the judge to adjourn for the week and set the commission’s resumption to Monday.
Freedom Under Law chief executive Nicole Fritz said that no one was above the law, not even a former president, and that Zuma’s walkout was a calculated act of defiance and a wilful display of contempt for the rule of law.
She said Zuma had been given every courtesy by Judge Zondo, who afforded him the fullest opportunity to present his argument, and that by his conduct Zuma made plain that the whole recusal application was a sham.
“Mr Zuma never intended giving evidence and the argument presented on his behalf was without merit. He was lawfully summonsed to give evidence, he blatantly refused to do so.
“Freedom Under Law respectfully suggests that such disgraceful conduct by a former head of state must compel the strongest action from the commission in response.
“If a former president can get away with such a blatant challenge to the rule of law, how can the rest of us be expected to obey the law?” added Fritz.
Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution executive director Lawson Naidoo said the commission should lay a criminal charge against Zuma in terms of the Commissions Act.
“Mr Zuma was there on a subpoena and he disregarded that subpoena by leaving the commission without the authority of the Deputy Chief Justice and in terms of the Commissions Act that constitutes a criminal offence for which Mr Zuma should be held accountable,” Lawson said.
Political parties did not take kindly to Zuma’s walkout, saying that this was a blatant contempt of the law and that he was not above the law despite his standing as a former head of state.
Narend Singh, IFP chief chip in Parliament, said it was unfortunate that Zuma and his legal counsel had opted to walk out of the commission without having been excused by Judge Zondo and that although he may have certain legal problems with the commission, he could not just walk away.
“When this Commission of Inquiry was being appointed, he thanked Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng for having considered his proposal to appoint a senior judge to head the commission and he gave his full name as Judge Raymond Mnyamezeli Mlungisi Zondo,” Singh said.
“He said at the time he trusted that everybody would respect the commission and the integrity of the judge.
“To find this happen, I think what he forgot to say is ‘everybody but me’. And to find that he is acting in this kind of manner, even though he’s not the president of the country, he should be setting an example to anybody else who has to appear before a commission, that you’ve got to respect the way a commission operates,” said Singh.
Wayne Thring, the African Christian Democratic Party’s deputy president, said that Zuma’s actions were an affront to the justice system.
“It was former president Jacob Zuma himself who established the commission which involved the appointment of Deputy Chief Justice Zondo as the commissioner.
“Now you have the person that you yourself appointed and midstream try to challenge the process with regard to family-related matters as if to cast aspersions on Zondo that he would not be an impartial judge,” lamented Thring.
Former DA leader and now leader of One South Africa Movement Mmusi Maimane said that by walking out of the commission without permission from its chairperson, Zuma had set a dangerous precedent as a former president.
“Our legal system will be severely undermined if this practice is perpetuated as citizens will ignore court orders,” he said.
“Zuma has always felt he is above the law, this should not be allowed. Legal compliance is crucial for SA,” said Maimane.