Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has dismissed suggestions by former president Jacob Zuma that he is biased in his dealings with him as a result of a conflict of interest because of his links to Zuma’s estranged wife Thobeka Madiba.
In September Zuma asked Zondo recuse himself from chairing the commission of inquiry into state capture. However, on Thursday Zondo cleared the air through a media statement issued by the commission.
Zondo said he decided to respond following a letter dated September 28 2020 addressed to him by Zuma’s attorneys. Zuma has been summoned to reappear at the commission.
The former president said he believed that the commission chairperson was biased against him and based on “historical and family relations between Zuma and the chairperson”.
“At the time of the receipt of the letter [from the lawyers] the chairperson decided not to respond to, or comment on any of the allegations made on the basis that Zuma was going to lodge an application for the chairperson’s recusal,” read the statement.
“The chairperson would have responded to Zuma’s allegations properly once that application had been lodged. However, it is now more than a month since receipt of that letter and the commission has not received that application.”
Zondo admitted that he has a child with Madiba’s sister, but said that relationship ended before Zuma married the former first lady.
“In the mid-1990s – that is about 25 years ago – when I was in my 30s and was still in private practice as a lawyer I got into a relationship with a certain woman out of which a child was born. That relationship ended during the 1990s.
“Unbeknown to anybody at the time, that woman’s sister, Thobeka Madiba was, many years after that relationship had ended, to get married to Jacob Zuma. To my knowledge Zuma had no relationship with Thobeka Madiba in the mid-1990s,” said Zondo. “Zuma happened to marry the sister of a woman with whom I had a relationship that had ended so many years before.”
Zondo added that that relationship “has never had any bearing on the execution” of his judicial functions in the many matters involving Zuma in which he has sat as a Constitutional Court judge since 2012.
“Indeed, in none of the many matters involving Zuma in which I have sat in the past has Zuma ever expressed any complaint or concern nor has he ever brought an application for my recusal,” said Zondo.
He added that he thought it was necessary to clarify this claim but would “at this point not be addressing any of the other allegations made in Zuma’s attorney’s letter as I will deal with them if and when Zuma’s application for my recusal is lodged”.
Madiba filed for divorce from Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court a few months ago. The couple married in a traditional ceremony at his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2010. They have a teenage daughter.