Former president Jacob Zuma will not appear at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, despite the fact that the commission has notified him to appear before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, in response to a letter sent to his client from the commission’s secretary Professor Itumeleng Mosala, said until Zuma’s legal challenge to Zondo’s refusal to recuse himself was resolved, his client would not be legally obliged to respond to questions about allegations levelled against him.
“We refer to the letter dated January 11 2021 addressed to president Zuma, we respectfully disagree with the commission’s view that former president Zuma is obliged to appear from the 18th to the 22nd of January on the basis set out in the letter.
“The commission is aware that president Zuma has instituted an application to review and set aside the refusal by Deputy Chief Justice Zondo to recuse himself from the hearing [due to] matters concerning him and his family. The review application is yet to be determined by the court. It is our respectful view that former president Zuma can only be legally obliged to appear [before the commission] after this review has been determined.”
Mabuza also reminded the commission that “it [the commission] deemed it appropriate to approach the Constitutional Court” towards the end of last year “on an extremely urgent basis to compel president Zuma to comply with the very same summons that the commission now wants to enforce”.
He said this was tantamount to ignoring Zuma’s fundamental rights, and cautioned the commission “to therefore await the outcome” of the process it set in motion.
Mabuza further maintained that until the Constitutional Court had ruled on the inquiry’s application to compel Zuma to appear before it and answer all questions put to him, he could not be expected to return to the inquiry given that he had no clarity on his right to remain silent during the proceedings.
This response comes after Mosala on Monday sent a letter addressed to Zuma warning him that even though the Constitutional Court had not ruled on the commission’s application to compel him to appear and answer questions at the inquiry, he was still obliged to comply with the summons and appear before it because the summons remained valid and binding.
Mosala added: “The commission wishes to make it clear to you that any failure on your part, without sufficient cause, to appear before it on the 18th to the 22nd of January will constitute a criminal offence.”
Zondo did not elaborate on what steps the commission would be taking following its receipt of this letter.
Proceedings at the commission were cut short on Friday because Zondo was informed that a person that he had been in close contact with had tested positive for Covid-19.