Zuma vs Zondo: Former president to review dismissal of recusal bid, leaves inquiry despite summons

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  • State capture inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma's application for his recusal. 
  • Zuma's counsel says they will review Zondo's decision. 
  • The former president left the inquiry without Zondo's permission.

Former president Jacob Zuma has left the state capture inquiry in defiance of a summons issued against him.

This comes after Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo dismissed Zuma's application for his recusal as the chairperson of the inquiry. 

Zondo announced his decision on Thursday morning.

He said there was no sound reason why Zuma raised issues of friendship more than two years after he was chosen to chair the inquiry. 

"In light of the fact that the applicant does not dispute most of the facts sets out in [a paragraph in Zondo's statement] I am of the opinion that on the undisputed facts, there was not the kind of relationship between myself and the applicant such that would disqualify me from chairing this commission, nor is it a proper ground for me to recuse myself," he said. 

He also said the former president should have raised his concerns with Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng - who nominated him for the role. 

After the ruling, advocate Paul Pretorius, head of the commission's legal team, said Zuma must now answer questions. 

But advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, who represents the former president, said they would be excusing themselves from the proceedings. 

"The instruction is to review your decision that you've just made when you finally give us a copy," Sikhakhane told Zondo.

He added: 

You have become a judge in a dispute that involves yourself and in that you determined disputes that arise in matters that include you... we are going to excuse ourselves from these proceedings so that we consider your ruling and in so far as the issue of you becoming a judge in your own matter which on its own is a ground that we've mentioned, that Mr Zuma mentioned, I want to say that we've also been instructed to lodge a complaint about you in that regard to the Judicial Service Commission in respect of the issue about which you've made yourself a witness and a judge.
 

However, Pretorius said proceedings should continue and that, if they excused themselves from the proceedings, Zuma would be acting in defiance of the summons issued against him. He said it was up to Zondo to decide whether proceedings should continue. 

On Monday, the commission heard the recusal application.

During his argument, Sikhakhane said the commission had added to the narrative that Zuma "messed up our country", by hearing testimony from "sweetheart witnesses", like Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas and former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan, "spewing all sorts of things from their moral high ground", News24 previously reported.

READ | Establishment of state capture inquiry was 'politically motivated' - Jacob Zuma's lawyer

He added that Zondo's comments during testimony meant "political witnesses" latched on to those positions.

"Those witnesses were treated with a certain deference," Sikhakhane said, adding that it indicated a "mind that is inclined to agree with a particular type of witness".

And this, he said, led Zuma to view the commission as "the grave to bury him".

He also told Zondo that if they lost the application, they would review it, and if he was forced to bring Zuma to the stand, "he'll exercise his right to say nothing".

ALSO READ | Jacob Zuma on relationship with Zondo: I dispute that we were never friends

Meanwhile, Pretorius argued that Zondo's recusal would collapse the commission.

He also argued that no indication of actual bias was put on record and that Zondo was obliged to do everything in his power to ensure that Zuma appeared before the commission.

Pretorius also said that so far, the former president had not given the commission his full cooperation.

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