Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal representative advocate Thabani Masuku came out swinging on Tuesday, claiming the State Capture commission’s evidence leaders denied Zuma his dignity when they applied for a summons to force him to return to the inquiry.
The commission was due to hear the evidence leaders’ summons application on Tuesday morning but Zuma filed an affidavit on Monday afternoon claiming he was too ill to testify at the hearings from 27 to 31 January.
The commission wanted to force the 77-year-old to return after multiple cancellations but Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo postponed the summons application due to the former president’s illness.
Zondo said he would meet with the head of Zuma’s medical team to understand his ailment and when he might be available to testify.
“I have accepted with some reluctance, but I have accepted the offer made by the former president that the leader of his medical team should see me and in confidence convey to me information that may assist in understanding the medical reasons relating to his failure to appear at some stage in the past before the commission,” said Zondo.
According to evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius, Zuma told the commission he was receiving treatment locally and abroad. He said the former president also questioned the integrity of the commission’s legal team and whether Zondo had the power to issue a summons.
Masuku implored Zondo to to extend the “presumption of integrity” to Zuma and criticised the commission for seeking a summons while the former president was ill.
Zuma was scheduled to return and testify in November, after cutting short his testimony in July 2019, but said he couldn’t attend that session due to medical reasons.
“It’s very embarrassing to stand here and to have to tell the commission that the former president has a medical condition that prevents him from coming to the commission under the threat of subpoena,” said Masuku.
While Pretorius said Zuma only informed the commission of his illness the previous day, Masuku said he took “great exception” to having to defend an ill Zuma from being forced to testify.
“It’s just extraordinary but it tells us exactly what we accuse them of – that there is a deep-seated antipathy, and I use very strong terms because it is what it is, towards our client,” said Masuku.
“It’s just not constitutionally compliant. I mean, where is ubuntu in all of this?” he asked.
Zondo said: “Last time, when the lawyers for the former president indicated that he was not able to come and appear before the commission because he was not well, the commission did not even ask for a medical certificate the commission accepted his word, at least I accepted his word.”
Zondo said he would be guided by Zuma’s doctor on when he might be well enough to testify. Zuma’s medical condition will remain confidential but Masuku said he will be available in March 2019 at the earliest.
Evidence leaders will continue to pursue their summons application and must file an affidavit responding to Zuma’s claims by Friday. The application, however, has been postponed to a yet to be determined date.
Zuma has a history of employing a Stalingrad defence, using all legal options available to drag out cases against him, and many observers might assume he is using the same approach at the commission.
“When he says he is not feeling well, he is not playing games with them,” said Masuku.
Many allegations of corruption that have been raised at the commission revolve around Zuma’s leadership and he has been personally implicated by former GCIS head Themba Maseko and former ministers Barbara Hogan, Nhlanhla Nene, Pravin Gordhan and Ngoako Ramatlhodi.
The commission also heard from Colonel Christine Anderson, who was in charge of movements at Waterkloof Air Force Base when a private plane full of guests for a Gupta family wedding landed at the base in 2013.
Anderson, who has since retired, said she did not know anything was out of the ordinary until the aircraft arrived. She said Bruce Koloane, then chief of state protocol from the department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco), had instructed her to make the arrangements for the landing.
She said the amount of helicopters and cars at Waterkloof ahead of the landing, which were meant to ferry guests to the Sun City wedding, was unusual. “It felt that the base was captured by this Indian delegation,” she said.
Koloane told Anderson there would be ministers on board, but she was not introduced to any, as per protocol, on the flight’s arrival. It was only the second time she had seen a plane not from the Defence Force arrive at Waterkloof without a head of state or minister since she began working there in 2004. The first was when the Dutch football team landed in 2010 for the FIFA World Cup.
The commission continues and will hear testimonies throughout the week about allegations related to law enforcement agencies. DM
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