The former president’s appearance at the hearings is one thing; whether he cooperates is quite another.
Former president Jacob Zuma is once again set to occupy centre stage as he appears at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday, with an estimated 5 000 supporters in tow.
Last month, the commission set aside July 15 to 19 for the former president to avail himself and make counter-submissions, after having been directly implicated, according to the commission, by eight witnesses.
Commission spokesperson Mbuyiselo Stemela identified the following witnesses as having directly implicated Zuma during the hearings: the former chief executive of the Government Communication Information System, Themba Maseko; former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor; former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene; Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan; former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan; former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi; his former adviser, Mahlodi Muofhe; and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, confirmed to City Press last week that, in keeping with his client’s earlier indication, he would appear before the commission.
However, it is unclear to what extent Zuma will cooperate with the commission. His lawyers made an unsuccessful attempt to have their client furnished with the exact questions that the legal team will be directing his way.
David Lewis, executive director of nonprofit organisation Corruption Watch, said the fact that the commission’s legal team had managed to force Zuma to appear at the proceedings – without giving in to Zuma’s demands or having to subpoena him – should be seen as a victory.
“This will set a good precedent for those who, like the former president, are reluctant to appear before the commission and think they can use their positions of influence to get special treatment from the commission.
“I think we are going to see more of such people, and it is just as well that the commission’s legal team refused to send them [Zuma’s legal team] their questions in advance. If they had given in, we would have seen more reluctance and people waiting until they are subpoenaed before they appeared.”
Zuma loyalists have banded together to form a group calling itself the Radical Economic Transformation Forces.
They are planning to gather and picket outside the commission’s Parktown venue on Monday.
Organisers Thanduxolo Dyolo and Enoch Molefe said they were expecting 5 000 participants. With this in mind, the organisers have roped in 500 marshals to assist with crowd control.
“The purpose is to support the former president and to hand over a memo in which we raise issues about why other people, like Gordhan, should not also come and answer questions before the state capture commission,” said the organisers.
An estimated 38 buses from Arrow Coaches and Freeway have also been arranged to ferry supporters to and from the venue.
Kebby Maphatsoe, president of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA), and association spokesperson Carl Niehaus told City Press that members of the association would also show up at the commission’s Parktown offices “in full force” to support Zuma.
“Zuma is a member of the MKMVA and has never been found to have done anything wrong. His appearance before the commission will be a chance to ventilate the allegations against him,” said Maphatsoe.
Another ally of the former president, Black First Land First leader Andile Mngxitama, echoed Maphatsoe’s words, saying he and his supporters would also attend the commission’s proceedings to support Zuma.
“We will be at the commission next week, but we are discouraged by how the Zondo commission, like other chapter 9 institutions, is now being used to silence individuals such as Zuma who have been at the forefront of calling for radical economic transformation,” said Mngxitama.
He said he had made contact with the commission’s legal team and investigators, and was trying to arrange a date when he could submit information about “crimes at National Treasury committed under Gordhan and Nene’s watch.”
With regard to security arrangements outside the commission, Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said: “There is always a police presence at the Zondo commission. It should be adequate to handle crowds that are expected to attend proceedings in support of the former president.”
Mantsha and the commission’s spokesperson refused to shed light on whether Zuma would also cross-examine witnesses who had implicated him either directly or indirectly.
However, Lewis said it was clear that this would be the first of numerous appearances Zuma would be making.
According to Lewis, the former president “is likely to deny most of the direct implications made against him – such as Maseko’s statement that he had been directed to ‘meet and assist the Guptas’ – unless the commission has other corroborating evidence”.
Lewis added that although the proceedings “may not be as sensational as what most people are expecting”, what will be more interesting will be the former president’s response to the indirect implications.
“His response to instances where he has cleverly not been implicated by some witnesses will be more severe. Allegations, such as those pertaining to bribes paid by Bosasa in the form of donations to Zuma’s foundation – and these donations, in fact, being bribes to Zuma – will be worth paying attention to.”