South Africa


Zuma does a runner after Zondo sets out a three-part judicial smackdown to recusal bid

Former South African President Jacob Zuma appears in court during his ongoing corruption case held at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 30 November 2018. EPA-EFE/ROGAN WARD / POOL

But Jacob Zuma will take that decision on review – cue: months of delays 

Judge Raymond Zondo, the chairperson of the State Capture Commission of Inquiry, delivered a three-part, one-hour long judicial smackdown to former President Jacob Zuma’s bid to force the judge to recuse himself.

Wearing a surgical mask, Zuma who looked drawn and tense before the Commission this week, listened intently as the judge delivered his decision. Zondo had delayed his judgment three times and finally made it on Thursday, November 19.

Former president Jacob Zuma at the state capture commission of inquiry during his application that deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo must recuse himself in the inquiry. Photo Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

“The application for my recusal is accordingly dismissed,” he said as he demolished Zuma’s three-part demand for recusal.

On a personal relationship

Part 1 was that he and the judge are friends and that Zondo was thus conflicted in his entire role as Commission chairperson.  “There was no sound reason why Zuma only raised a personal relationship close to three years after (he was appointed Commission of Inquiry chairperson),” said Zondo.  “If the applicant felt that way, he should have raised the matter with the chief justice (at the time of the appointment). “ Zuma had argued he had not done so for fear of being seen to interfere in the choice of the chairperson.

“The view of interference is not sound,” said Zondo, adding that “If the chief justice had given him (Zuma, who was then president), the name of a judge who faced corruption charges, would he (Zuma) have kept quiet?”

On having an axe to grind

Part 2 related to Zuma’s view that the witnesses before the Commission had been “persons with an axe to grind”.  The Commission has heard 257 witnesses and 35 of those had implicated Zuma.  “There is no merit in this point,” said Zondo, adding that “the Commission was free to use any witnesses so long as in the end, the applicant (Zuma) was free to come before the Commission and deal with the evidence”.  Zondo said that Zuma had several opportunities to come forward to give his version of events to the Commission but he had failed to do so.

On bias

Part 3 dealt with Zuma’s view that the judge had made comments which exhibited bias on his (Zondo’s) part. “I am satisfied that the applicant’s contention has no merits. I am entitled to and obliged to seek comments and ask questions as the Commission must seek the truth on (the) matters it is investigating. The applicant appears to expect me to be very passive when witnesses appear,” said Zondo.

Former president Jacob Zuma and advocate Muzi Sikhakhane at the state capture commission of inquiry during his application that deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo must recuse himself in the inquiry.Photo Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Zuma’s counsel, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane said that they would take the decision on review and also report Zondo to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) because “you will realise (maybe I didn’t say it enough) that you have become a judge in a matter that involves yourself”.

The judge made it clear that the commission would proceed after a tea break. However, Zuma left the commission during the break without his counsel notifying the chairperson.

Commission proceedings have been adjourned for two days. DM

12.25pm: This article was updated with the latest developments.



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All Comments 16

  • Zuma was summonsed to appear at the Commission from Monday to Friday this week. He’s now done a runner & ducked out of the Commission without being excused by Zondo….

    The only alternative now is to issue a warrant for Zuma’s arrest.

    • I really and truly hope that Zondo has the b…s to have the warrant of arrest executed. Let’s wait and see. I will not be holding my breath.

  • The Code of Conduct for Legal Practitioners state that counsel are the agents of the Rule of Law. Sikhakhane is the agent of former president Zuma.

  • When you consider the overwhelming ‘prima facie’ evidence against the accused and what are obviously blatant delaying tactics surely now is the time to put an end to this charade and give this man his day in Court !

  • If Zondo had come back recusing himself, then they would have considered him ‘fair’.
    This is such classic arrogance bullsh*t. Never mind the oh so obvious extension of the Stalingrad tactic.
    The beauty is Zuma is now in breach of the law. For crying in a bucket, let’s draw the line in the sand and arrest him and put him in the dock of a real court, in leg-irons. Everyone, especially himself, knows he’s as guilty as sin. If they don’t, what a wonderful precedent for future criminals to simply ignore subpoenas.
    Stand up Zondo, stand up Ramaphosa, stand up South Africa !!!

  • We in south Africa are dealing with a criminal syndicate disguised as a government of the people for the people and nothing could be further from the truth than that. Basically the ANC is at war with the people of South Africa and JZ, whilst he was President, was able to subvert the very institutions intended to protect society from criminals, namely the criminal justice cluster, so that the criminals had free reign.

  • I have admiration for DJ Zondo and am of the opinion that judges, advocates and attorneys should be held to exceptionally high ethical standards. It is interesting that this is the same Adv Sikhakhane who was appointed by JZ and the now-discredited SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane, to produce the Sikhakhane Report aimed at creating the “Rogue Unit” narrative and having it closed down. It was apparent back in 2014 this High-Risk Investigative Unit (HRIU) was getting far too close to those involved in state capture, so the Sikhakhane Report was used to help close it down. Surely lawyers and judicial officers implicated in such matters should be censured by the appropriate body? The same applies to the handling of the Seriti Commission by Judge Seriti? The whole arms deal commission has been totally discredited, but what of the judge who facilitated the whitewash?

  • I see Jacob “the worm” Zuma has done it again!! It’s defiantly a case of the tail wagging the dog! When is the state going to stand up to this thief & charge him with treason as well as a crime against humanity!!

  • Our Deputy Chief Justice R. Zondo, you are doing a magnificent job. You are showing incredible patience, honour, and integrity. Even if delays prevent you from completing your journey, the work has been done. The police, Hawks, SIU, NPA et al will find it very difficult to not prosecute those exposed during your enquiries to corruption, theft, fraud etc etc, to the detriment of the poor in this beautiful country.