Jacob Zuma walks out of controversial commission

FILE - In this file photo dated Tuesday July 16, 2019, former South African president Jacob Zuma looks on at the state commission probing allegations of corruption in government, in Johannesburg. South African media say the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday Nov. 29, 2019, has dismissed Zuma’s attempt to appeal a ruling that cleared the way for him to be prosecuted for corruption.(AP Photo/FILE)

Johannesburg – Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was left stunned on Thursday when former president Jacob Zuma excused himself from the commission without his permission.

Zondo was forced to adjourn until Monday as the former president left the building during a tea break.

Zondo said it was a pity Zuma had left the commission without being granted permission.

Earlier, Zondo had dismissed Zuma’s application for him to recuse himself from proceedings when he testified.

Zuma, through his legal representative, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, told the commission he would be taking the matter on review and his client would leave the proceedings.

Evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius wanted proceedings against Zuma to continue and asked Zondo to rule on the matter.

Sikhakhane also said they wanted to be excused from the proceedings but that was objected by Pretorius, who said the onus was on Zondo to make such a ruling.

Zuma left the before Zondo could deliver his ruling.

Meanwhile, Zuma has vowed to challenge the dismissal of his recusal application in the high court.

Zondo delivered his verdict on Thursday, saying Zuma’s application lacked the test of a reasonable apprehension of bias against him.

Zondo also rejected Zuma’s version he visited him at his official residence in Durban a few days after his appointment as a head of the commission of inquiry into state capture.

In Zuma’s affidavit, submitted to the commission on Wednesday, Zuma said Zondo’s visit to his official residence was part of a continuation of their friendship, but Zondo denied it.

“Upon my appointment as head of the commission by the Chief Justice (Mogoeng Mogoeng), he informed me that the former president wanted to meet with me. I had indeed visited him at his residence. It was an official meeting,” Zondo said.

Zondo also said it was too late for Zuma to reject his appointment almost three years later, adding he would have raised the issue about their alleged friendship during the initial stages of his appointment.

“In his founding affidavit, the applicant said that he did not want to be seen to be interfering in the appointment of judges but I think if he had raised the matter earlier, it would have allowed the Chief Justice to apply his mind to it.

“There is no reason why he should raise the matter almost three years after I was appointed,” Zondo said.

He also said Zuma failed to lead evidence showing he was biased against him, including insinuations that he treated various witnesses who allegedly implicated him to state capture such as Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and others with kid gloves.

The judge also bemoaned the fact that Zuma ignored various directives issued by him to appear before the commission to answer to several witnesses who implicated him in state capture.

“Mr Zuma alleges that I ignored his evidence he made in July last year. The fact is Mr Zuma has not completed his testimony before the commission. He was served with summonses to provide affidavits in response to 35 witnesses or so who implicated him in state capture.

“He has since failed to provide such affidavits and I had to issue directives to compel him to appear before the commission.

“This was followed by a letter from his legal team in which they informed the commission on September 28 that they intend to bring an application for my recusal on the grounds of my friendship with Mr Zuma. Until today, the commission does not have affidavits of Mr Zuma on allegations against him,” Zondo said.

He also dismissed the recusal application on the grounds that he was entitled to interact with any witnesses appearing before him saying the intent ‘was to strike a balance” in their testimonies.

“Mr Zuma has failed a test for the reasonable apprehension of bias and according his application ought to be dismissed. It is accordingly dismissed,” Zondo ruled. | Additional reporting by IOL

Political Bureau

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