Judge Raymond Zondo has denied that he is conflicted because of personal relations with former President Jacob Zuma, who has applied for his recusal as chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
One of the grounds Zuma used in his 100-page recusal application was a close relationship with the judge. Zondo demolished this before the commission today, as he said: “The statement that we are friends is not accurate … Mr Zuma and I do not socialise together and have never socialised together.”
He said that he had never had a one-on-one with Zuma when he served as president from 2009 to 2018 but said he met with the former head of state on “two or so occasions” between 2005 and 2007 “when he asked to see me”. He said he had visited Zuma’s residences (at Forest Town in Johannesburg; and in Durban) on “limited occasions”, one of which was to sympathise when one of the former president’s wives died.
If friendship or closeness is measurable, then Zondo measured it by special occasions: meals together, birthdays, farewells and deaths. In each of these, he implied, the absence of Zuma at these moments in his life, showed that they are not friends.
“Mr Zuma does not get told of a death in my family and I have lost four siblings and my mother.” And “I have never invited Mr Zuma to my birthdays or other functions since we got to know each other,” said Zondo.
In addition, they had not shared meals together nor had Zondo represented Zuma when he was an attorney although he said they may have discussed some matters informally.
And “[He has had] no influence in the rise of my judicial career.” Zondo said that Zuma had appeared in cases which had included him (the judge) many times in crucial cases like the case about the state spending on his private estate at Nkandla, but he had never asked for his recusal on the grounds of a conflict due to personal relationships.
Zuma attended the recusal application at the Commission’s Johannesburg hearings in person with his daughter Duduzile Zuma. Looking drawn and worried and wearing a burnt orange and black mask, he paid close attention to the arguments by his advocate Muzi Sikhakhane.
Sikakhane has told Zondo that the former head of state regards the Commission as a “slaughterhouse” which had featured a slate of favourite witnesses who confirmed the “dominant narrative” that Zuma was the man “who messed up our country”.
The application continues. DM