'Waste of time' - ConCourt questions state capture inquiry's long-winded Zuma subpoena process

State Capture commission chairperson Raymond Zondo. (Felix Dlangamandla)
State Capture commission chairperson Raymond Zondo. (Felix Dlangamandla)
  • The Zondo commission of inquiry wants former president Jacob Zuma to be compelled to appear before it and answer questions in January and February.
  • The ConCourt suggests the commission of inquiry is responsible for creating the urgency with which it has now brought its case – by not subpoenaing Zuma far sooner.
  • The commission of inquiry is due to complete its work on 31 March 2021, but will apply for a three-month extension.

The commission of inquiry into state capture has faced some tough questions from the Constitutional Court about its efforts to get former president Jacob Zuma to testify – and why it did not subpoena him to appear far earlier than it did.

The country's highest court has been asked to grant a series of orders against the former head of state, who the commission of inquiry has accused of repeatedly failing to account for the allegations of unlawful and corrupt conduct made against him.

But Justices Mbuyiseli Madlanga and Chris Jafta this morning repeatedly questioned advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, who is representing the commission of inquiry in its urgent bid to compel Zuma to answer its questions, on why the commission chose to only subpoena the former president after hearing a "substantive" and "adversarial" application.

"The need for the issuing of a summons was seen in December 2019… can you please explain the need for a substantive application? I am totally confused as to why that is necessary," Madlanga said, before describing that protracted subpoena application – which was the only one of its kind to be heard in the commission of inquiry's history – as a "total waste of time".

The commission of inquiry is seeking a series of orders to compel Zuma to appear before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and answer questions in January and February 2021.

Madlanga has repeatedly suggested that the inquiry was responsible for creating the urgency with which it has now brought that case.

"Once a point was reached that it is now necessary to issue a summons, and this as far back as December 2019, so once that point is reached, why not simply issue a summons for an appearance in January 2020?" he asked.

Ngcukaitobi responded that the subpoena application had followed Zuma's repeated claims that he wanted to cooperate with the commission, as well as his failure to appear because he was receiving medical treatment.

READ HERE | Zondo: State capture commission will ask High Court for another extension

As such, he said, Zondo wanted to hear Zuma's "side of the story" before issuing the subpoena for him to appear.

Ngcukaitobi argued that Zondo "bent over backwards" to accommodate Zuma, who has only given evidence once: in July 2019. In response, he said, Zuma had treated Zondo with "belligerence, defiance and contempt" – culminating in his decision to walk out of the commission of inquiry in November.

Ngcukaitobi added that Zuma had extended the contempt he had displayed towards Zondo and his commission by refusing to participate in the inquiry's Constitutional Court case to compel his appearance. As a result, Zuma had failed to explain why he had walked out of the commission of inquiry or why he had repeatedly failed to make good on his promises to provide the commission with the evidence it sought from him.

"One can see what the goal is," Ngcukaitobi said.

"The goal is to run out the time until the commission's tenure finishes. If he runs out the time successfully, in March next year the commission's life will be over, Mr Zuma will have avoided accounting for his alleged criminal behaviour while in office."

READ | Zuma says state capture inquiry is a 'political project' against him

The commission of inquiry is also adamant that Zuma has no right to remain silent if and when he is compelled to appear before the commission, because he is not an accused person and can only exercise a limited privilege against self-incrimination.

The hearing continues.

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