/ 28 January 2021

Apex court to rule on Zuma’s Zondo commission appearance

Former president Jacob Zuma.

The Constitutional Court will hand down its judgment in the showdown between Jacob Zuma and the Zondo Commission, which wants to compel the former president to appear before it.

The apex court will give its ruling on the matter today. Last November, Zuma walked out of a sitting of the commission after his failed bid to have its chair, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, recused. The commission’s star witness absconded from the hearing, despite appearing there under summons. 

The commission issued Zuma a fresh summons from 18 to 22 January and again from 15  to 19 February. In December it applied to the Consititutional Court for an order compelling the former president to comply. 

In its application, the commission asked that Zuma be warned not to leave a sitting of the inquiry without Zondo’s permission, and to file outstanding affidavits. The commission is also seeking an order declaring Zuma’s theatrics in November unlawful and in breach of the Commissions Act.

Meanwhile, Zuma’s lawyers have not taken Zondo’s persistence lying down. In November, before Zuma’s walk out, the former president’s legal counsel, Muzi Sikhakhane SC, announced his client would be taking Zondo’s decision not to recuse himself on review. 

The application was filed at the Pretoria high court in December, shortly after the Zondo commission launched its Constitutional Court application.

Zuma defied the standing summons for him to appear before the commission earlier this month. 

At the time of Zuma’s scheduled appearance, commission secretary Itumeleng Mosala sent the former president and his attorney, Eric Mabuza, a letter warning that the summons was binding, regardless of the Constitutional Court’s pending ruling. Mabuza contested this and argued that the commission must await the apex court’s judgment.

It has been a year and a half since Zuma last gave evidence at the commission, which is mandated to investigate allegations of corruption and state capture during his tenure as president. More than 30 witnesses have given evidence implicating Zuma in the state capture project.

In his affidavit to the Constitutional Court, Mosala said that Zuma’s failure or refusal to appear before the commission wasted five weeks of hearing time.

With the commission’s work now coming to a close, time is running out to get Zuma’s version of events on record.