All eyes are on the chair of the State Capture investigation, Raymond Zondo, to see if he will order that an arrest warrant be issued for Jacob Zuma. The former president, meanwhile, says he did nothing wrong.
Minutes after the chair of the State Capture investigation, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ruled that he would not abuse himself as Jacob Zuma had wanted, the former head of state left the building.
“It’s not coming back. It’s a shame he left. The commission will reflect on issues that it needs to reflect on, ”said Zondo, who returned from his tea break to find out that Zuma had left. The commission adjourned until Monday, November 23.
Before the break, evidence leader Paul Pretorius said: “It’s not up to the candidate to decide [Zuma] to simply excuse himself – it’s your decision. ”
Zuma had been summoned to appear before the commission to give evidence, and he should do so, the evidence leader said. By admitting he had committed a crime, two senior commission officials spoke and spoke to them Daily Maverick provided anonymity.
The commission is constituted by the Commissions Act 1947, which states: “Any person summoned to attend and give evidence … who, without sufficient cause, fails to attend or be present or until the chairman excuse him … guilty of a crime. . ”
Another clause in the law states: “Any person who knowingly interrupts a commission transaction or intentionally obstructs or impedes a commission in the performance of its functions, shall be guilty of an offense.”
Zuma is now believed to be guilty of a crime, and any person can lay a charge in or outside the commission. The Commissions Act was passed in 1947 and is so old that it continues to impose fines in pounds. It provides for jail terms of six to 12 months.
Because Zuma was summoned to appear this week and then left without the judge’s permission, Zondo can order that a warrant be issued for his arrest.
“The commission needs to take some action. It cannot allow to undermine itself. The two things that come to mind are that a warrant can be issued [for Zuma’s arrest] or a criminal charge may be laid, ”said Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Promotion of the Constitution of South Africa (Casac).
Zondo has bent over backwards to avoid clashes with Zuma almost since the commission’s inception, but the former president has repeatedly ignored requests for cooperation from him. By leaving while under a summons, Zuma has flipped the bird at Zondo, analysts said.
Zuma’s legal team said the former head of state had not illegally left the commission.
“I disagree [that they are in breach of the Commissions Act and that Zuma committed an offence]. We asked to be excused, ”said attorney Eric Mabuza. He said Zuma could not stay on because his advocate had already submitted an intention to take the rejection ruling on review to the Gauteng High Court.
‘The application for my refusal is refused’
At 10.05am on Thursday November 19, Zondo began reading his decision on whether he would excuse himself from chairing the commission after a stopgap week when the verdict was delayed three times.
Zuma’s legal team had alleged that Zondo’s conflict was due to a friendship with the former president and that the commission’s choice of witnesses and Zondo’s comments in a case revealed bias.
The commission has heard 257 witness testimonies in the 27 months it has sat, and 35 of those witnesses have contacted Zuma. Since August 27 2018, after the first witnesses, Vytjie Mentor and Themba Maseko, contacted the former head of state in State Capture cases, the commission had sought to hear his side of the story.
Zondo presented the commission’s myriad efforts to get Zuma to the witness stand. He said: “One of the cornerstones of any fair and just legal system is the impartial adjudication of disputes. Nothing is more likely to impair confidence than actual bias or the appearance of prejudice on the part of officers who have the power to judge. ”
The many attempts made by the commission to hear Zuma’s testimony showed that he was not biased. In past refusals, courts had determined that it was proof that a judge had to show a mind that was open to persuasion through the evidence and submissions of counsel.
But not hearing Zuma’s testimony, how he was supposed to show his open mind, Judge asked Zondo.
“An unfounded and unreasonable confiscation of a judicial officer is not a justifiable ground for refusal and the concern must be assessed in light of the facts. Courts are hesitant to find bias in the absence of convincing evidence. ”
On Zuma’s argument that the two men had a personal relationship, which was a conflict of interest, Zondo said: “The applicant [Zuma] they can’t be allowed to pick this up so late in the day, ”they said not close.
It is nearly three years since the commission was established by Zuma and Zondo was nominated by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to chair it.
Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane he said in his case for denial that Zondo’s comments to witnesses revealed prejudice.
“I have read all the comments quoted. I am satisfied that the applicant [Zuma’s] the contention has no merit, ”says Zondo.
“I have the right to ask for comments and questions as the commission has to seek the truth on issues it is investigating. The applicant expects me to be very passive when witnesses appear. Provided I keep an open mind and act fairly, I have no difficulty in seeking clarity and testing evidence. ”
Pretorius told Zondo that Zuma couldn’t get up and leave.
“Despite the decision to review, the case must continue. If they excuse themselves from a case, Zuma acts defiantly from the summons and [acting] is illegal. It is your responsibility, Chair, to decide whether the case is ongoing or pending [suspended] pending the review. ”
Zondo reflects on what to do next with the witness who proved to be the most troublesome, but which is also essential for a final report to have credibility.
Discussions are under way to get Zuma to provide a written statement in response to the 35 witnesses who have been linked to State Capture. The commission would not be well served to take the stand but then refused to say anything (as did his friend Dudu Myeni), associates said.
The commission has, on at least 26 occasions, invited Zuma, in writing, to provide his version of events and has written to him at least 16 times to find suitable time slots for him to submit evidence. He has been excused when he had to go to a separate corruption case, when he was ill, and this week he was excused to go to a funeral.
Civil society and some commission members want Zondo to take firm action against Zuma in the final lap of the investigation, which must end on March 31 2021. Others believe that a bloodless solution can be found to protect the integrity of the commission. DM