Days of Zondo
End of the line as Zondo tells Zuma appearance dates are non-negotiable
Former President Jacob Zuma is running out of options. Next month, the State Capture Inquiry’s legal team will again argue why the Chairperson should sign off a summons against Zuma. Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has decided on new dates for Zuma’s second appearance – and they are not up for discussion.
State Capture Inquiry Chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo expects former President Jacob Zuma to testify at the commission from Monday, 16 November to Friday, 20 November 2020. “We do not negotiate dates with witnesses,” Zondo said sternly on Monday, 21 September 2020.
Monday’s sitting began with Zondo updating the public on correspondence between Zuma’s legal team and the secretariat of the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud.
“Previously, I determined that today up to Friday would be the week when the former President, Mr Jacob Zuma, would appear before this commission,” said Zondo. “He was notified thereof and after some time his attorneys wrote to the commission and said that he would not be appearing before this commission during this week.”
Going through some changes
Per Zondo, the former president’s attorneys gave at least three reasons why Zuma would not testify this week. They were: Zuma was preparing for his criminal trial, the 78-year-old received medical advice he should limit his movements due to his age and Covid-19, and Zuma was taking legal advice after a vital change to the inquiry’s regulations.
“I do not want to comment at this stage on his reasons for deciding that he would not appear before this commission this week,” Zondo said on Monday morning.
In July, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola co-signed a change to a secrecy clause in the Rules and Regulations. Previously, a clause muzzled the inquiry’s investigators. Since the change, investigators who have completed their work for the commission can now migrate to other law enforcement agencies.
Advocate Hermione Cronje, who leads the Investigative Directorate at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), told Daily Maverick the amendment was a “shot in the arm” for the NPA. “It’s human capital, but it’s domain knowledge. It’s their understanding. They’ve been debating these issues across teams. They have a much better understanding from the top,” Cronje said of the inquiry’s investigators.
Since the State Capture Inquiry began public hearings in August 2018, Zuma appeared for only five days of testimony, during which he repeatedly denied allegations against him and reported he did not recall critical facts.
On Friday, 19 July 2019 which was the last day of evidence from Zuma to date, he briefly withdrew cooperation altogether claiming he was enduring cross-examination by head of the legal team and evidence leader, Advocate Paul Pretorius SC.
“Chair, quite frankly, this is a joke,” Zuma’s representative Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC told Zondo. Sikhakhane argued Zuma should receive the same treatment as Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, and former Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene.
Other witnesses, such as Mzwanele Manyi, have similarly criticised Zondo and the inquiry’s legal team for treating some witnesses as sweethearts. When Advocate Kate Hofmeyr interrogated Manyi about his conduct at the Department of Labour, Manyi griped he was being “crucified” at the commission.
With or without you
Since Zuma will not return this week, evidence on corruption in the Free State has been moved forward.
Zondo announced that on Friday, 9 October 2020 at 9am he will hear the legal team’s application for an order from him authorising the issuing of a summons against Zuma.
“He and his lawyers have been informed that, unless I am satisfied on that date that there are good grounds for them not to appear, if they do not appear that application will proceed without them,” said Zondo.
“They have been informed that should they wish to make use of a virtual appearance before the commission and if they inform the commission timeously arrangements will be made for them to appear virtually before the commission.”
He added: “But that application will proceed with or without them unless I am satisfied that there are good grounds for them not to be here.”
Zondo recorded a remark in one of the letters from Zuma’s attorneys, which suggested dates should be negotiated. “No dates will be negotiated with them or with him,” said a stony-faced Zondo. “This commission has made it clear to the attorneys who represented him before that this commission does not negotiate dates with witnesses.”
It’s a date
Zondo concluded repeating the dates set down for Zuma’s second leg of evidence at the State Capture Inquiry. “The dates of 16 to 20 November 2020 have been determined for his appearance. That is all I wanted to say about that matter,” said Zondo. Pretorius then introduced the week’s evidence on corruption in the Free State. DM
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