State capture commission of inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma’s application for the former to recuse himself from presiding over matters involving Zuma and his family.
Outlining why Zuma’s application did not meet a reasonable apprehension of bias, Zondo said there was no evidence to indicate that he, as chairperson, would not be able to bring an impartial mind and be open to persuasion in the adjudication of proceedings.
He added that the onus lay on the applicant to prove reasonable apprehension and this was not met.
Zondo said that, regarding the first ground on which Zuma sought his recusal, claiming that the pair were friends was untrue even as the former president maintained that they were.
“Although we have known each other, we are not friends,” retained Zondo.
He continued, saying what was important was that the applicant did not dispute Zondo’s submission that the pair had not been familiar with each other to the point of attending each other birthdays or familial funerals.
With regard to Zuma’s argument that Zondo’s comments to witnesses were not passive by leading, the chairperson said “the applicant’s submission has no merits”. He said that, as a chairperson of a commission, he was entitled to probe witnesses and seek clarity from them where necessary.
As a result, Zondo said he had concluded “that the recusal falls” and is dismissed.
An infuriated Muzi Sikhakhane, Zuma’s head legal counsel, indicated that his client would be excusing himself from the proceedings. “The instruction we got from our client is to take the matter up on review and we take particular exception with your [Zondo] having become a judge in disputes that include yourself,” said Sikhakhane.
He said that, in light of this – Zondo’s ruling on a matter that includes himself – Zuma has instructed him “to lodge a complaint to the judicial service commission”.
Sikhakhane said he and his client would be walking out on the proceedings, a suggestion that was shot down by the head of the commission’s legal team, Advocate Paul Pretorius, who said that the summons now ought to be adhered to and Zuma should be compelled to testify.
A ruling on this would be made after the tea break.
The handing down of the dismissal was delayed with Zuma’s legal team’s submission of an affidavit disputing Zondo’s opening statement on Monday, in which the commission chairperson said he and Zuma were not friends.
It remains to be seen whether Zuma will now be compelled to testify.
This story was updated on November 19, 2020 at 13:51
Having been told that the commission would adjudicate during the tea break on whether he would be compelled to testify, in line with the summons issued against him in October, the former president merely left the commission without the chairperson’s permission.
A perplexed Zondo indicated after the break that he had only recused Zuma from attending yesterday’s proceedings after his lawyers had indicated that he needed to attend a bereavement.
In light of Zuma’s outright defiance, proceedings would be adjourned.
It’s not clear whether an arrest warrant would be issued, but Zondo indicated that the commission would now ponder on what had happened and then take a decision.