DAYS OF ZONDO

Save the date: Zuma confirms July appearance

By Greg Nicolson 25 June 2019
Caption
Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma in the Pietermaritzburg High Court where he is hoping to avoid corruption charges, May 20, 2019. Picture : Jackie Clausen / Pool

It's confirmed: Jacob Zuma will appear at the Zondo Commission from 15 to 19 July. The former president has been described as central to the State Capture project but it's unlikely he'll sit in the hot seat without a fight.

The State Capture Commission confirmed on Tuesday that former president Jacob Zuma has agreed to appear for five days in July in front of the inquiry that’s heard detailed testimony on allegations of corruption in government and at state-owned entities (SOEs) during Zuma’s nine years in office.

In a statement, the commission said that on Monday Zuma’s lawyers sent “a written undertaking from Mr Zuma through his attorneys that he will appear before it on 15 to 19 July 2019”.

The former president was pencilled in to appear before commission Chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on those dates but had requested to be provided with a list of questions he might expect to face in advance of his hearing.

Last Week, the commission said that Zuma “is not entitled to insist that he be furnished with the questions in advance of his appearance before he can consider whether to give the undertaking (to appear)”.

The State Capture Commission is investigating a wide range of corruption allegations, many of which centre around the hollowing out and looting of state institutions during Zuma’s nine years as president.

The commission had on multiple occasions requested Zuma to confirm in writing that he will appear to answer questions but did not use its powers to subpoena him.

The letter from the former president’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, confirming Zuma would attend in July, included serious accusations of bias by the commission and questions around its legitimacy.

Mantsha was quoted by News24 saying the commission’s media statement on declining to provide Zuma with a list of expected questions was nothing but a disinformation campaign and an unfortunate attempt at instigating the public against our client”.

We view this stratagem of naming and shaming our client as unfortunate,” Mantsha continued.

This has also left us with the distinct impression that you seek your own truth and to deliver our client to the commission for public display and in order to ambush and humiliate him rather than to fulfil the mandate of the commission as set out in the terms of reference.”

Zuma is yet to apply to cross-examine any of the witnesses who have implicated him and Mantsha on Monday said the commission is “prejudiced against him and lacks the requisite impartiality”.

Zuma’s counsel may begin proceedings on 15 July by questioning the commission’s supposed bias against his client and whether he should be subject to questioning from a “prejudiced” inquiry.

The former president was forced to establish the commission after the courts ruled former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s recommendation in her report State of Capture report on the Gupta family’s influence on Cabinet appointments, tenders and SOE board appointments was binding.

Zuma has been implicated in a number of testimonies at the commission.

Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene said Zuma was critical of his refusal to approve a nuclear procurement deal, which led to his surprise 2015 sacking.

Former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan claimed Zuma had improperly become involved in the appointment of leaders at Transnet and Eskom after his 2009 election.

Angelo Agrizzi, the former COO at Bosasa, claimed that his CEO Gavin Watson paid Zuma R300,000 a month to back changes in the law that would have benefited Bosasa’s business interests.

The former president has been dismissive of the allegations against him. DM

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In other news...

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government - mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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