Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has requested that he be given more time to ponder on the submissions made by Jacob Zuma for him to recuse himself from presiding over matters involving the former president and his family at the state capture commission.
Zondo said he would take the rest of Tuesday to consider the submissions made on Monday by Zuma’s lawyers and should be ready to deliver a ruling on Wednesday.
Zuma will not be in attendance as he, through his lawyer advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, requested not to be present as he would be attending a funeral.
The former president brought the application as a last ditch attempt to avoid appearing before the commission from November 16-20.
It was Zuma’s submission that as a victim of a conspiracy he feared that there might be bias against him.
Through Sikhakhane, Zuma accused Zondo of a raft of bias against him. In his submission he said Zuma was being charged with a non-existent crime and being compelled to appear before an illegally constituted commission.
“This commission was constituted to probe a crime that is not in any of the legal statutes of our country. State capture is actually a political concept formulated by political opponents and my client is yet charged with this none existent crime,” argued Sikhakhane.
There was “something really wrong with how this [the commission] was constituted and established,” basing this on the fact that there was only one individual – Zondo – presiding over such a “serious commission”, Sikhakhane said.
“It [commission] was not thought-through, consideration was only given [a mandate] towards sinking Zuma and that was it,” he said.
This assertion was dismissed by head of the commission’s legal team, advocate Paul Pretorius, who said maybe Zuma had “a reasonable apprehension that there may be findings against him”.
Pretorius hit back, saying it was “not clear what the application was and what the application was not”.
Sikhakhane had not alleged whether Zondo would be averse to persuasion or that the chairperson would not be open-minded, which the evidence leader argued was the correct test for the “apprehension of bias” argument, Pretorius said.
“The test is: has or will your [Zondo’s] conduct show that you cannot bring an impartial mind to bear to the process?”
Pretorius asserted that Zuma did not take the opportunity to cross-examine people who had implicated him. He added that Zuma refused to respond to specific allegations because he felt he was not implicated.
“Chair, we have searched in vain for any display of hostility, as alleged, towards Zuma in any public comment that you might have made. There is no unkind public comment that you have made,” Pretorius said.
But Sikhakhane was adamant: “Reduced to its essential elements, this application seeks to persuade you … to look honestly and sincerely at some of the comments [you have made]. We contend to you that they would frighten a litigant that is sitting in front of you.”
“I’m appealing to your psyche, I’m appealing to your honesty about, [your Zondo’s] errors.”
This is itself, argued Pretorius, a clear demonstration that Zuma’s legal team was still confident that Zondo had the capacity to be impartial in his adjudication.
Pretorius also argued that if the former president’s gambit to eject Zondo was to succeed, it would collapse the entire work of the commission that has already cost taxpayers R1 billion.
On Monday Sikhakhane indicated to Zondo that should his team fail in its quest to have him recuse himself, they would appeal and prolong proceedings.
“Even if we do lose, we will ‘review you’ and take the matter further,” said Sikhakhane,
He suggested that another alternative would be for his client to exercise his right to remain silent should Zuma be forced to testify before Zondo.