Zuma won't attend state capture commission until 'biased' Zondo recuses himself

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Former President Jacob Zuma before the Zondo Commission in 2019 (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)
Former President Jacob Zuma before the Zondo Commission in 2019 (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)
Felix Dlangamandla
  • Former president Jacob Zuma wants Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to recuse himself as chair of the commission of inquiry into state capture.
  • Zuma says he will will not appear if Zondo is still chair. 
  • In a letter from his lawyer, Zuma accuses Zondo of bias and of not declaring "historical personal, family and professional relations" between the two. 

Former president Jacob Zuma's lawyers have written to chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture Deputy Justice Raymond Zondo, asking him to recuse himself due to his "biased disposition" towards the former leader.

In a letter drafted by his legal team, Mabuza Attorneys, Zuma states that he is of the view that he has been "targeted" by the commission of inquiry.

This follows an ultimatum made by Zondo earlier this month, when he announced before proceedings at the commission that new, non-negotiable dates for Zuma's appearance to give evidence would be from 16 to 20 November.  

He said that, on 9 October at 09:00, the commission would hear an application brought by its legal team for an order authorising the issuing of a summons.

Zondo said, if they did not appear, the application would proceed without Zuma's team.

The letter from Zuma's lawyers read:

For the reasons to be fully set out in the application to be made soon, we are instructed to seek your recusal as Chairperson of the Commission on the ground that our client reasonably apprehends that you have already adopted a biased disposition towards him and cannot bring an impartial mind to the issues and evidence that relate to him.

"President Zuma's conclusion that the Chairperson is no longer capable of exercising an independent and impartial mind is fortified by what he views as the unwarranted public statements made by the Chairperson at the said media briefing.

"President Zuma has always expressed his willingness to cooperate with the Commission. This is in spite of his reservations about the legality of the Commission and in particular, your suitability as Chairperson, given your personal relations with him. However, the conduct of the Chairperson towards him has left President Zuma with no choice but to take this step in order to defend his rights as a citizen.

"President Zuma believes that the Chairperson's conduct has stripped this Commission of its much required and vaunted legitimacy."

The letter goes on to say that, until their application for Zondo's recusal is finally determined, Zuma would take no further part in the  commission of inquiry and that Zondo was entitled to take any step he deemed lawful and appropriate.

"We reiterate that President Zuma has questioned the lawfulness of the establishment of this Commission. He persists with this issue and reserves all his right in this regard.

"In so far as the Chairperson interprets his own powers to be so absolute that non-negotiation is necessary in order to agree appearance dates, we leave it in his capable hands to do as he deems appropriate.

"We are aware that the Chairperson has already indicated that with or without President Zuma's legal team, he will make his ruling. As a result, our views on the matter have been rendered irrelevant by the Chairperson's statements and he is entitled to take any step or ruling that he deems lawful and appropriate."

Comment was not immediately available from the commission, but will be added when received. 

Zuma had initially applied for a review of former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela's recommendation that a commission of inquiry investigate allegations of state capture. The application was not successful and a court ruled that Zuma (as then-president) should appoint the commission, with the Chief Justice appointing a chairperson. 

In June 2017, Zuma wished Zondo well when confirming his appointment as Deputy Chief Justice, to succeed Dikgang Moseneke who was retiring.

Zuma has appeared once at the ccommission, last July, where he made claims regarding some ANC members being spies and plotting a character assassination against him. He said he would reveal who they were on a "rainy day".

Since then, he has not been able to appear due to "ill health" and needing time to prepare for his appearance.

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