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Regulations tightened ahead of Zuma summons

Publish date: 13 January 2020
Issue Number: 855
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has tightened its regulations to make it more difficult for witnesses to lie and evade questions, notes Legalbrief. Amendments to the regulations state that witnesses will no longer be allowed to refuse to answer questions fully and satisfactorily, says a report in The Sunday Independent. Those who fail to comply run the risk being found guilty of an offence. In terms of the commission’s regulations, witnesses may be cross-examined by a person they implicate only if the chairperson gives permission for the cross-examination – if he deems it necessary and in the best interest of the commission’s functioning. The new regulations chime with an announcement on Friday that the commission's lawyers are preparing to subpoena former President Jacob Zuma to compel him to complete his testimony, but there is every indication Zuma will oppose the move (see report below). The commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, is to resume hearings tomorrow, notes a BusinessLIVE report. ‘ ... the chair will hear an application that will be moved by the commission's legal team for an order authorising the acting secretary of the commission to issue a summons for the former President, Mr Jacob Zuma, to appear before the commission from 27-31 January,’ the commission said. Zuma testified for the first time at the commission in July but did not complete his testimony. He did not turn up for his second appearance in November, with his lawyers saying he was too ill to take the witness stand. The commission will this week hear evidence relating to the landing of an aircraft ferrying guests to a wedding of members of the Gupta family at Waterkloof Air Force Base. Zondo will also hear evidence from law enforcement agencies this week.

Amendment to regulations

Full report in The Sunday Independent (subscription needed)

Full BusinessLIVE report

However, Zuma’s lawyers are expected to oppose any attempt to force him to return to the commission, suggests a Cape Argus report. His lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, said Zuma had noted the commission’s intention and would be responding adequately tomorrow. ‘Former President Zuma is opposing the commission application set down for (tomorrow),’ Mantsha said. Last week, it was heard that Zuma has refused to undergo a lie detector test. This after former Mineral Resources & Public Administration Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi wrote to the commission asking that it conduct one following Zuma’s claims that he (Ramatlhodi) was an apartheid spy recruited in the 1980s. Ramatlhodi said he had initially requested for a test to be conducted a few weeks after the claims were made, in July last year, but the commission did not have grounds to force witnesses to submit to one. Ramatlhodi said instead the commission had asked him to prepare an affidavit to state his side of the story, and the content of the affidavit was supposed to be put before Zuma at his aborted appearance, in mid-November last year.

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)

A fine or imprisonment of up to 12 months is possible for unco-operative witnesses, notes a Business Day report. The executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution, Lawson Naidoo, said ‘given that time is running out for the commission, in the context that it has applied for an extension until the end of the year, a lot of time has been used up with witnesses evading questions and having to be called back to the commission’. He added: ‘These amendments are being instituted to try to fast-track the process of the work of the commission to ensure that the witnesses who come before the commission answer the questions that it has for them and to try to expedite the process of the gathering of information,’ Naidoo said.

Full Business Day report