Zondo vs Zuma: What state capture commission can do now

2019-06-21 14:35
Former president Jacob Zuma.  (Jackie Clausen, AFP, file)

Former president Jacob Zuma. (Jackie Clausen, AFP, file)

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A tense standoff is unfolding between former president Jacob Zuma and the state capture commission of inquiry, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

It is now increasingly likely that the commission will have to resort to employing its wide ranging powers to compel Zuma to provide an affidavit, or appear before the commission as requested.

Zuma has been asked by the commission - on at least three occasions since April last year - to provide a written undertaking that he will appear before it between July 15 and 19.

The commission also requested that he provide an affidavit by June 12. As of Thursday, he had not done either.

News24 understands from a source with knowledge of the matter, that the commission's patience may be wearing thin.

"They are not doing nothing," the source explained.

In testimony from more than 50 witnesses who have appeared before the Zondo commission in its first 100 days of hearing evidence, Zuma's name has repeatedly cropped up

Zuma has argued that this is because the entire process is designed to further a nefarious political agenda, and accused the inquiry and Zondo of "publicly and in an unprecedented way" singling him out.

READ MORE: Zuma can't have questions in advance, says Zondo commission

The former president has also insisted on seeing the questions that would be posed to him, before he agrees to appear or provide an affidavit.

The commission on Thursday, in a public statement, confirmed it would not be granting Zuma's request.

Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko confirmed on Friday that it had approved payment for Zuma's legal costs.

What the Commission could do:

News24 has studied the Commissions Act and the rules which govern the Zondo commission's proceedings.

Section (3) 2 of the Commissions Act states any commission can issue a summons "for the attendance of a witness or for the production of any book, document or object". The summons shall be served in the same manner as a "summons for the attendance of a witness at a criminal trial".

It is, therefore, likely that the commission could compel Zuma to provide an affidavit and other documents. Or it could compel Zuma to take the stand.

READ MORE: Public Protector reveals what information she'll share with Zondo commission

According to the rules of the commission, once such a summons is issued, Zuma would have 10 days to respond.

"The Commission is currently reflecting on the fact that, after six weeks since it requested that it be furnished with the required undertaking, it has not been furnished with the undertaking and will take such decision(s) as it deems appropriate in due course," the commission said in its statement on Thursday.

The Act also makes it very clear that any person who fails to appear before the commission if summoned, or appears and fails to answer satisfactorily or fails to produce documents requested, will be guilty of an offence.

Zondo may not yet have issued such a summons to any witness, but the commission has wide powers at its disposal to make sure it hears from Zuma.

Request for affidavit from Ramaphosa

Zuma, who has in the past appeared to favour an approach of playing the victim of a political conspiracy when facing allegations of corruption, was reminded by the commission's acting secretary Peter Pedlar, in a June 7 letter, that he was the head of state when it was allegedly captured.

Pedlar also reminded Zuma's legal team that the terms of reference for the commission were signed by Zuma, and singled out certain individuals for special mention, including Zuma himself.

Pedlar's letter is replete with veiled warnings that Zuma's attitude would not continue to hold water for much longer, and reminders that it was inevitable that he would be mentioned.

READ MORE: These are the hurdles Jacob Zuma will face at Zondo commission

But the key lies in paragraph nine of Pedlar's June 7 letter:

"In asking your client [Zuma] to give the Commission a written undertaking that he will appear before it on the days specified in our letter of 30 April 2019, the Commission is not necessarily invoking any specific powers in terms of the Rules at this stage, but is simply showing courtesy to your client who is a former President of the country."

Pedlar reveals that President Cyril Ramaphosa had been requested to provide an affidavit, which he had undertaken to do.

News24 requested an updated comment from Zuma's spokesperson and legal team, and will updated this story once it has been received.

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Read more on:    jacob zuma  |  state capture commission
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