A war of words has erupted between former president Jacob Zuma and the Zondo commission mere days before Zuma is expected to appear before the inquiry.
Zuma’s lawyers have told the commission to not “bully” him into appearing before it. Earlier this month, the commission issued a summons to Zuma to compel him to appear, considering that he has been implicated in alleged state capture by various witnesses who have appeared before the commission.
Zuma, however, has not indicated whether or not he will comply with the summons, according to the commission’s secretary, Professor Itumeleng Mosala.
In a letter sent to Zuma’s lawyers dated 11 November 2020, Mosala issued a deadline of Thursday midday for the former president to indicate whether or not he would comply with the summons.
“If I do not receive any response from you by 12h00 tomorrow or if I receive a response that does not inform the commission that your client will comply with the summons, I will assume that your client does not intend to comply with the summons,” Mosala said.
In a scathing response, Zuma’s lawyer Eric Mabuza said the commission should not try to “bully” his client, adding that Mosala has “no authority … to warn” the former president of anything.
“Your conduct is completely unnecessary and uncalled for … If anything, your conduct will only serve to harden attitudes in this delicate matter,” Mabuza said.
Zuma has been implicated in various witness statements that have appeared before the commission. He has yet to file responding affidavits to any of the witness statements, according to Mosala. The commission’s secretary says Zuma has also failed to provide the commission with any explanation as to why he has not complied.
This failure to file affidavits is a criminal offence, Mosala says, and the commission is “considering its options” regarding Zuma’s failure to comply with the inquiry’s directives.
Mosala adds that Zuma has failed to apply for Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo to recuse himself from the commission. In October he wrote a letter to the commission accusing Zondo of being biased based on their historical family relations.
Mosala says Zuma should have long lodged the application if he “persists” in his move to have the commission’s chairperson recused.
“I take this opportunity to warn your client [Zuma] that, even if his legal team plans to move his application for the chairperson’s recusal, that will not be a valid reason for him not to comply with the summons on 16 November 2020,” Mosala says.
In response to Mosala’s “threat”, Mabuza says the commission’s secretary is “free to take any step you deem appropriate.”