Former president Jacob Zuma, through his legal counsel, has indicated that he does not want to take part in the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture any further. When the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — reconvened on Friday, Muzi Sikhkakhane SC, acting on behalf of Zuma, revealed that his client “will take no further part in these proceedings”, arguing that he had been “relentlessly” cross-examined. This new development comes after the head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, indicated that it does not intend to make any concessions by changing its line of questioning.
MANDATE AND RULES OF COMMISSION
Zondo pointed out that the commission was not mandated to prove anything against a specific person, but that it was mandated to investigate all related matters. Our mandate is to investigate various matters,” Pretorius added.
Zuma was scheduled to appear before the commission on 18 July, but the commission took the day off to solve an impasse that had arisen between the commission and the former president’s legal teams. During his appearance before the commission on 17 July, Zuma complained that he was being cross-examined by Pretorius. Pretorius was questioning the former president on the evidence of former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan, who appeared before the commission last November.
He explained that he experienced problems because he went through the details, that are the details of the officials. And expected to remember every other detail on the work that is generally done by the DGs [directors general] and the officials.
Following an objection from Sikhakhane, who said his client had been invited to the commission “under false pretences”, proceedings were adjourned. Zondo said he believed there were “reasonable prospects that a way will be found that we can proceed with a certain understanding”. But by Friday no such understanding had been reached and a heated back-and-forth ensued between Zuma’s legal team and the commission.
Pretorius said that the commission’s legal team would not endeavour to “soften” the questions it puts to Zuma, arguing that this would be unfair to the commission’s other witnesses. “If the questions are detailed and if the questions and difficult … so be it,” Pretorius said. He also disputed the complaint that Zuma had been “cross-examined” by the commission. “In relation to the particular issue of so-called cross-examination … Should there be an objection to any particular question … you can make your determination, he said.
“We are not only entitled, but obliged to ask those questions,” Pretorius added, arguing that the term “cross-examination” has been used incorrectly to characterise all questions that may be perceived as difficult to answer. Pretorius cited the rules of the commission, which stipulate: “A member of the commission’s legal team may put questions to a witness whose evidence is presented to the commission by the commission’s legal team including questions aimed at assisting the commission in assessing the truthfulness of the evidence of a witness. Subject to the directions of the chairperson, the commission’s legal team may ask leading questions.” He added that the commission cannot “limit our own powers” in this regard.
Sikhakhane hit back at the commission’s legal team, arguing their client had been treated unfairly and suggesting that this treatment is politically motivated. He argued that the impasse that had arisen between Zuma’s legal team and the commission was a “crisis” that has been created by the commission’s legal team, which he called “inefficient”.
Addressing Zondo, Sikhakhane said: “Chair it is important that as the right hand of this place, the judge, the second-most senior judge in this country, to know whether your left hand [the commission’s legal team] is acting in good faith without political influence and whether these things they are doing are by mistake or by design.”
Reluctant to make a ruling, Zondo asked for a consultation with Zuma’s legal team and the commission’s legal team in his chambers in the hopes of coming to an understanding. He emphasised, however, that he will not ask either side to “compromise their own rights or obligations”.
19 July 2019
After three days on the stand, the legal team of former President Jacob Zuma told the commission of inquiry into state capture on Friday morning that Zuma would no longer take part in the proceedings. This comes after Zuma and his legal team brought the commission to an abrupt halt after they cried foul over what they say was unfair treatment of Zuma.
Former President Jacob Zuma is expected to resume his testimony at the State Capture Commission this Friday. The commission adjourned on Wednesday to allow more time for deliberations over the concerns the former president had raised relating to his questioning. Zuma complained that he is being cross-examined and expected to remember details of events that had nothing to do with his position as head of state. We cross to our reporter Mzwandile Mbeje in Parktown.
State Capture Inquiry – 19 July 2019 Part 2