Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said on Tuesday that the delay in handing his report on the state capture scandal to President Cyril Ramaphosa was caused by his insistence that he needed to fact-check it a final time, and denied that there was any political meddling regarding his findings.
Zondo caused a stir on Monday when he apologised to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) after the morning tea break during its interview with supreme court of appeal president Mandisa Maya took longer than planned because he was told the president needed to speak to him “urgently”.
“The chairperson and the president did not have any meeting yesterday,” Zondo said in a statement issued by the commission on state capture he has chaired.
“The president never interfered in any way with the work of the chairperson or of the commission.”
Zondo said he regretted any inconvenience caused by the delay and took responsibility for the fact that the handover had yet to happen, six days after the court deadline of June 15 for the commission to conclude its work.
“The chairperson just wanted to have one final opportunity for quality assurance as he was at the JSC interview yesterday and could not do that quality assurance until sometime in the afternoon.”
In a separate statement issued late on Monday evening, Ramaphosa’s office said it wished to stress, “to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding”, that he had still not received any form of copy of the final report of the commission.
“The final part of the commission report was due to be handed over to President Cyril Ramaphosa by 15 June 2022. The commission chair, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, communicated to President Ramaphosa on Thursday the 16th of June 2022 the delay and undertook to finalise the report as soon as possible,” the presidency said.
It recalled that the commission on Saturday stated that the delay in submitting the report to Ramaphosa was caused by “certain challenges” it was experiencing and undertook to hand it over on Sunday.
“This did not unfortunately happen,” the presidency added.
Ramaphosa then spoke to Zondo briefly on Monday about the delivery of the report.
“In the morning of the 20th of June 2022, President Ramaphosa and Chief Justice Zondo held a brief telephone call in which the chief justice offered reassurance on the delivery of the report and discussed the coordination for the handover ceremony.”
The commission had informed the presidency that the report would be finalised after the JSC sitting but not in time for it to be handed over to Ramaphosa at 6pm on Monday.
It then committed to submitting the report to Ramaphosa on Wednesday, which has now been set as the date for a ceremonial public handover of a printed copy of the report.
The presidency described this agreement as “tentative”, adding: “No handover of the report can take place until and unless the chief justice has finalised his work.”
It stressed that communication with Zondo has been restricted to discussion about the delays in the delivery of the report and finalisation of a date for an official handover, and said the public would be informed once Ramaphosa was sent a copy of the final chapter.
“The presidency therefore rejects claims that the president has in any manner interfered with the work of the commission or the judiciary as speculated by some opposition parties,” it said.
Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen had said the delay was the result of a meeting between Ramaphosa and Zondo to discuss the timing of the release of the findings of the commission, and charged that it was “wrong and deeply unethical”.