Zondo dismisses Zuma’s recusal application

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has dismissed former president Jacob Zuma’s application for his recusal as the chairperson of the state capture commission.

If Zuma’s legal team does not challenge the ruling, a summons to compel the commission’s star witness to give further evidence will stand. 

It has been more than a year since Zuma last gave evidence at the commission, which is mandated to investigate allegations of corruption and state capture during his tenure as president. With only a month left for the commission to hear evidence, time is running out to get Zuma’s version of events on record.

However, after Zondo delivered his ruling, Zuma’s counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane SC, announced the former president and his legal team would be excusing themselves “right now”. 

“The instruction is to review your decision that you have just made, when you finally give us a copy. And we will take it from there.”


Sikhakhane also announced that his client has instructed him to lodge a complaint to the Judicial Service Commission about Zondo “in respect of the issue … you have made yourself a witness and a judge”.

Zuma’s application for Zondo’s recusal was based, largely, on his view that the two were friends — a view that the commission’s chairperson has firmly disputed.

On Monday, Zondo read out a statement before the recusal application, detailing the background of his relationship with Zuma, and how the former president had no influence on appointment as a judge.

Zondo said he had known Zuma since the early 1990s, when he was in private practice as a lawyer in Durban and Zuma was a leader of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal. He said his work was connected with the ANC, of which he was a supporter.

“Although Mr Zuma and I have a cordial relationship … Mr Zuma’s statement that we are friends is not accurate,” he said.

After legal representations were made by Sikhakhane and head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC, it was expected that Zondo would make his ruling on the recusal application on Wednesday. However, Zondo’s ruling was postponed after Zuma submitted a 13-page affidavit responding to the chairperson’s statement.

In the affidavit, Zuma doubled down on his claims that the pair had been friends and accused Zondo of omitting relevant information about the nature of their relationship. “The chairperson is being less than candid in his recollection of facts in his statement,” the affidavit reads.

Zuma also notes that in placing his statement on record, Zondo “opened himself up to becoming a judge in the determination of factual disputes relating to his own statement”.

“I am further advised that it is a trite principle of law that a judge cannot sit in his own case or in the adjudication of factual disputes arising from his own statement of facts judged against allegations raising disputes with his statement.”

This appears to be the basis for Zuma’s next challenge to Zondo’s credibility as the chairperson of the commission and the reason for the former president’s decision to excuse himself.

But Pretorius intervened before Zuma could leave Thursday’s hearing. If the former president does decide to leave, he would be acting in defiance of the summons, Pretorius said.

“The position is simply: the summons stands. It is not, with respect to my learned friend, open to the applicant to ‘excuse himself’. The proper application of the law demands that you make a decision about the continuance of proceedings.”

However, when the commission returned from a tea adjournment, Zuma had left anyway. This, Zondo said, is “a serious matter”. 

“It is a pity that he has elected to leave without asking for permission,” he noted.

A solemn Zondo added that the commission will reflect on the matter and that it would continue its work.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories

General Counsel of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year

CR17 report is not perfect, but the investigation was rational, court hears

So says public protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane’s lawyer, who said she had reason to suspect the money was being laundered through the campaign

Zondo tightens his grip with criminal complaint against Zuma

The state capture commission’s star witness now faces a criminal complaint and another summons

Masterclasses in duck-and-dive

You didn’t need to be a genius or a prophet to predict that Bushiri would run or that Zuma would stall

Peacemaking criminology as ubuntu: A reply to Thuli Madonsela

If the rich and powerful are afforded amnesty, then so too must the poor who are often pushed into lives of crime

Eusebius McKaiser: Zuma’s recusal case is utterly unconvincing

The legal arguments put forward by the former president’s team are weak and inconsistent
Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

General Counsel of the Bar slams Zuma Foundation

Another summons has been served on Jacob Zuma at his Nkandla residence, requiring the former president to appear before the Zondo Commission next year

CR17 report is not perfect, but the investigation was rational,...

So says public protector Busisiwe Mkwhebane’s lawyer, who said she had reason to suspect the money was being laundered through the campaign

‘We struggle for water, but power stations and coal mines...

A proposed pipeline will bring water polluted with Gauteng’s sewage to the Waterberg in Limpopo to boost the coal industry during the climate crisis

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…