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Why Zuma must be forced to appear

Publish date: 20 January 2020
Issue Number: 856
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Zondo inquiry

The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has set out why it is imperative for former President Jacob Zuma to give testimony despite his assertion that he cannot appear before it because of a ‘serious medical condition’. Last week, notes legal writer Karyn Maughan for Business Day, the inquiry’s legal team was to argue an application for Zondo to issue a summons compelling Zuma to testify. As part of that application, the acting secretary of the commission, Kwezi Brigitte Shabalala, deposed an affidavit detailing why the inquiry’s legal team believed Zuma must be legally forced to appear before the Deputy Chief Justice. Shabalala said the commission’s legal team had issued Zuma with 23 notices saying he was implicated in witness evidence since the start of the commission in August 2018. ‘In respect of some 23 notices so issued, Mr Zuma has declined to make any application to put his own version in response to the allegations made against him and concerning him and to cross-examine the relevant witnesses,’ she said. Shabalala said in a 12-page document that Zuma, whose response to the evidence led against him at the inquiry was ‘central’ to the inquiry’s mandate and investigations, had ‘failed or refused’:* To abide by the directives issued by the commission chair; * To deliver an affidavit detailing his response to ‘areas of interest’ the inquiry asked him for answers about in July 2019; * To appear at hearings scheduled for his further testimony, which resulted in a loss of three weeks’ hearing time, a loss that the commission can ill afford in relation to time and costs; and * To approach the inquiry for rulings ‘excusing non-compliance with the directives’.It was crucial that the commission be given the opportunity to question Zuma, Shabalala said, so that it could ascertain the truthfulness of his and other witnesses’ evidence. Business Day points out that Zuma has insisted that he has co-operated fully with the inquiry but that he was unable to attend a scheduled date for his testimony in October because he was in court fighting for a permanent stay of his corruption prosecution. He said he was unable to attend hearing dates in November 2019 and January this year because he was either in hospital or due to receive medical treatment overseas. He has offered to arrange for Zondo to meet with the military doctor who leads his medical team so he can be appraised confidentially of the nature of Zuma’s medical condition. During the inquiry’s hearings this week, Zondo agreed ‘reluctantly’ to do so. It is unclear when this meeting will take place. Zuma, meanwhile, accused the inquiry’s legal team of providing ammunition to his political opponents by suggesting through the summons application that he was unwilling to testify and had something to hide. Nothing could be further from the truth, Zuma said.

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