Former president Jacob Zuma’s expected appearance before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture next month could be delayed by at least a month to allow the Constitutional Court to rule on the commission’s application to force him to do so.
Yesterday, the Zondo Commission approached the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis asking it to force Zuma to file affidavits and answer to 35 witnesses who implicated him in state capture – but they were grilled by some of the Concourt Justices.
The grilling came as advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi – legal counsel for the Zondo Commission – was making a case to the Justices to endorse their urgent application.
Advocate Ngcukaitobi also asked the Concourt Justices to rule that Zuma is not allowed to exercise his right to remain silent, saying it was in the interest of the taxpayers to know what transpired during his presidency.
However, things were not smooth sailing for Ngcukaitobi as he faced a grilling from one of the Justices, Chris Jafta, who questioned the commission’s decision for direct access to the Concourt. Justice Jafta was of the view that the High Court also had similar powers to rule over the commission’s application.
Initially, it was Justice Mbuyiseli Madlanga who fired the first salvo, saying the commission waited for more than eight months to lodge the application but only did so after an adversarial dispute with Zuma in November.
Justice Madlanga also reminded Ngcukaitobi that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, who heads the commission, was empowered with coercive powers to issue summons against Zuma but the commission failed to do so when Zuma was not co-operating with the commission.
In his reply to Justice Jafta, Ngcukaitobi said the legal process in the High Court was likely to drag on for more than a year, and the lifespan of the commission comes to an end on March 31, 2021.
“It was for these reasons that we approached the court of the first and last instance. The reason we approached the Constitutional Court is that when Mr Zuma made his first application for the recusal of Deputy Chief Justice (Raymond Zondo) on November 16, his legal representation told Justice Zondo that if he rules against them, Mr Zuma will exercise his right to remain silent.
After Justice Zondo ruled against his application, his legal representative said they were excusing themselves from the proceedings. “Mr Zuma walked out of the commission without the permission of Justice Zondo,” Ngcukaitobi said. He added that a few days after the walk-out, Zuma’s “alter ego” – the Jacob Zuma Foundation – issued a statement saying Zuma would not return to the “manipulated and biased process”.
In March, there was a lockdown. The commission could not sit to hear evidence. It was only in June that it managed to resume. Mr Zuma was again served with a notice to appear in July but he ignored it, It was only in November that he filed papers for the recusal of Justice Zondo,” Ngcukaitobi said.
Zuma and his legal representative were not present as they wrote to the Concourt on December 14 saying they would not participate in the proceedings.
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