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Zuma decision not admission of guilt – experts

Publish date: 10 September 2018
Issue Number: 790
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: South Africa

Former President Jacob Zuma’s decision to not cross-examine state capture inquiry witnesses should not be confused with an admission of guilt, noted legal experts in a Times Select report. While the Guptas say they have ‘objective evidence’ to place before the Zondo commission of inquiry to dispute the testimony against them, Zuma has opted to stay out of it. He said he would not seek to state his version of events on record through cross-examination, since he does not believe any of the testimony implicates him in any criminal or ethical wrongdoing. Lawyer James Grant stressed that the inquiry, unlike a criminal trial, does not require Zuma to counter the evidence against him through cross-examination. ‘Cross-examination (in an inquiry) is just damage control. In a court of law, you must allow the witness to comment (on your version). Here, there is no obligation to cross-examine, only the right.’ Grant said Zuma did risk the prospect of negative credibility findings being made against him, because of his failure to cross-examine. Attorney Ulrich Roux agrees: ‘The implication would essentially be that Zuma wouldn’t be able to test the witnesses’ versions and put their versions forward to the witnesses. While not admitting the truth of the testimony against him, Zuma does not believe that, even if it is accepted, it shows he did anything illegal. This means that the credibility of the witnesses won’t be challenged and the chairperson could therefore place more weight on what the witnesses testify.’ The commission is expected to continue today when it will hear expert testimony from Treasury official Jan Gilliland.

Full Times Select report