/ 1 March 2021

Zuma foundation claims ex-president was prepared to testify, but Zondo played politics

Safrica Politics Corruption Zuma
The supreme court of appeal is yet to rule on the appeal to the high court finding that his release on medical parole was unlawful and he should return to prison. (Michele Spatari/POOL/AFP)

The Jacob Zuma Foundation has launched another attack on Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, this time accusing him of trying to bend the law in a politically-laden bid to persecute the former president.

In its latest missive, the foundation claimed that Zuma had offered to cooperate with the commission but was rebuffed. 

It also said that under the Commission’s Act those who act in breach of summons risked a fine or six months in prison, not a two-year sentence the commission has asked the constitutional court to impose on Zuma.

“The 1947 Act talks about six month’s [sic] imprisonment or 55 pounds fine, not the two years imprisonment that the honourable judge who is chairing the commission alone, suggests,” the foundation said. 

“This desperation of the Deputy Chief Justice Zondo, abusing his position as the second in charge in the constitutional court, instructing his subordinates to bend the laws of the country is unprecedented. 

“He ignores process and jurisdictions as prescribed in law, just to ensure that the Zuma [sic] state capture commission of inquiry finds president Zuma guilty by hook or crook to deliver him to some hidden masters.” 

But this is misreading of the commission’s approach — and of the legal bother in which Zuma finds himself after flouting summons to testify before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector, Including Organs of State for a full week in January and another in February.

The Zondo commission has laid criminal charges against Zuma in terms of the Act for failing to appear in January.

But after he defied the February summons, which had been made an order of the constitutional court, it returned to the court to ask that it find him in contempt, and consider each of the days of the week for which he was absent as a breach.

Commission secretary Itumeleng Mosala argued in court papers that had Zuma done this in respect of a summons from a criminal court, he would have risked a sentence of four and half years.

Zuma has publicly responded to the application by stepping up his attacks on Zondo and refusing to appear before him.

But the foundation claimed on Monday that Mosala was disingenuous because in his affidavit he acknowledges the possibility that the court could impose a suspended, rather than a punitive sentence, provided that Zuma testifies.

Mosala said that should the court choose this route, the commission would then have to make special arrangements to accommodate his testimony before the lifespan of the commission expires.

The foundation seized on this and said: “The Jacob G Zuma Foundation has noted that in paragraph 81 of its affidavit, the commission surreptitiously asks for an order that was openly offered by President [sic] Zuma’s legal counsel and rejected by the commission.

“While seeking to appear to maintain its hard unreasonable stance, the commission pretends this is its original remedy when everyone knows that it is an offer they rejected as they did with all the responsible proposals. We find this insincerity disturbing at this level and not befitting a legal process of this magnitude.”

Zuma’s lawyers have claimed that he met Zondo in his chambers on November 19 and offered to respond to questions privately, rather than take the witness stand. The commission emphatically denied that such an offer was made.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday that the ANC top leaders planned to meet Zuma soon and seek to persuade him to comply with the constitutional court and the commission.