South Africa


Ex-spy boss Fraser didn’t follow the rules of State Capture probe, says Zondo during grilling for Chief Justice job

Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Day 04 of the interviews for South Africa’s next Chief Justice at Park Hotel on February 04, 2022 in Sandton.Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

On Friday, the Judicial Service Commission held its fourth and final interview for the Chief Justice position, with Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in the hot seat.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was repeatedly questioned about why he didn’t subpoena Arthur Fraser, the former director-general of the State Security Agency (SSA), to testify at the State Capture Commission. 

The questions were posed by commissioners Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Julius Malema and Gratitude Magwanishe.

In January 2021, SSA acting director-general Loyiso Jafta told the State Capture Commission that R9-billion in fixed assets were not to be found and that R125-million could not be accounted for in the 2017/18 financial year. Fraser was appointed as SSA director-general in 2016.

Acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo at Sandton’s Park Hotel for his interview for the job of Chief Justice on 4 February 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

In response, Zondo said: “Part of the problem with Mr Fraser is it seemed he didn’t want to comply with the processes of the commission; he could’ve applied to come to the commission and a decision would have been made. He says I didn’t want him to testify because he would disturb the narrative that I was following. If he’d applied and complied with the rules of the commission, the matter would come before me in an open hearing. He decided not to do that.” 

Malema was not happy with Zondo’s response and said that he was being long-winded in an attempt to not answer the question. 

Zondo explained that in March 2021, Fraser told the commission that he wanted to testify but that he needed documents from the SSA. Zondo then asked Fraser’s lawyers to come back and inform him whether they were able to get the documents. “He never came back [to me],” said Zondo.

Julius Malema and Mvuzo Notyesi on day four of the interviews for South Africa’s next Chief Justice in Sandton on 4 February 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

“If I were to decide to compel him, I would’ve made the decision in October or September and that was too late. I had warned his lawyers that when they’ve received documents, we’d assess the situation to see what is possible. We didn’t call him [to come to the State Capture Commission] partly because his story wasn’t complete. We expected him to come back, he never did,” said Zondo. 

Fraser objected to Zondo’s nomination for Chief Justice, writing: “Deputy Chief Justice Zondo made sure that I neither present my version nor get an opportunity to cross-examine those he called to testify against me. No independent-minded judge would act in this manner. 

“Such a person cannot and should never be entrusted with the highest judicial office in the land. His appointment would signal the death of our judiciary and have a corrosive effect on our democratic values as a country.” 

Commissioner Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula at the final JSC interview for the next Chief Justice on 4 February 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

Commissioner Engela Schlemmer asked Zondo whether the JSC should not read into the fact that the part of the report that deals with Ramaphosa’s evidence was not yet complete. Schlemmer and Malema asked whether this was Zondo’s attempt to curry favour with Ramaphosa.

“We shouldn’t read anything about the fact that the report is not finalised. The report was supposed to be done by the end of December. When we realised that wasn’t possible, we decided to do it in parts,” Zondo replied.

Commissioners Ronald Lamola and Jennifer Cane at the final interview for South Africa’s next Chief Justice at the Park Hotel in Sandton on 4 February 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick)

The final part of the report will be released by the end of February.

If Zondo were appointed Chief Justice, he’d serve two and a half years of the 12-year term before retiring. When asked about this, he pointed out that chief justices rarely serve full terms. He referenced former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, who served for two years.

Zondo was first appointed as a judge of the Labour Court in 1997 and was judge president of the Labour and Labour Appeals courts between 2000 and 2010. He has been a judge of the Constitutional Court since 2012 and was appointed deputy chief justice in 2017.

The JSC will have a closed session on Saturday to deliberate. DM



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All Comments 11

  • It is obvious that Fraser played the long game.He never planned to come and testify so that he could argue exactly the way he argued that”he was never given a chance to tell his side”.This was his plan to use it at the JSC so as to discredit Zondo

  • Disappointing that the JSC has disintegrated into this farce
    The good people on the JSC don’t feature
    It would be nice if the media gave as much attention to the other participants who asked relevant important questions
    Malefactors et al makes a mockery of the whole process

  • Oh Malema, what a prize twit. He complains about Judge Zondo being long winded and never looks at the three fingers pointing at himself. It is sad that a person of the stature and learning like Justice Zondo should be treated by this bunch and it appears that his interview was all about the State Capture Commission, not on his qualities as a judge. so, so very sad especially revealing the incompetence of the JSC in not only this debacle but in a bunch of other matters.

    • Exactly, the questions posed by the JSC never matched the quality of the people that they were being interviewd..We’re heading absolutely nowhere as such a lame duck country. How do we end up with such losers on such an important committee? Let’s just say it, because we have the ultimate losers as politicians, the entire bunch can do nothing except sprout shiza and venom all day long.

      • Charles, your first sentence says it all. For four years I watched Zondo at the State Capture commission. Seldom have I seen a person with so much integrity, and dignity. And my admiration for him just kept on growing and growing as the day went on at this JSC interview. To me, a lame duck in legal matters, it will be an injustice if he is not appointed as Chief Justice. With a few exceptions, the quality of questions were just so exceptionally disappointing.

      • Agreed. A committee seemingly composed of grandstanding idiots who hogged the floor for purposes of settling scores, supporting their odious factions and preening in the limelight that they so obviously desire. The only winners in this farce were the applicants themselves, shown to be intellectually head and shoulders above the dross that is the current JSC.

  • I cannot comprehend why men and women of the intellectual and reputational stature of these Justices need to endure scrutiny from someone like Malema.

  • Are there still people who believe that the president will start action against the ones who are implicated in the Zondo papers? Dream on! step aside rulings or proscecutions will not take place as this would minimize his re-election within the ranks of the ANC.

  • “Sooner or later they (the kleptocrats) will all sit down to a banquet of consequences” …… borrowed from RL Stevenson.

  • Heavens! What a dreadful display of egotistical behavior by the panel- political points scoring- odious line of questioning, barbed insults, not so veiled- how can this be allowed to continue -it is an insult to our serious jurists. Civil society organizations and other well perceived judicial bodies should unite and send a strong message to the Presidency, bolstering their voice by united media presentations and T.V.appearances

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