/ 30 June 2021

Zondo: ‘It would have been better if Zuma had participated in the state capture inquiry’

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo emphasised the importance of pinning down the facts of the trip because failing to establish that it actually took place would compromise Mentor’s credibility.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Gulshan Khan/AFP)

The Zondo commission would have to base its findings on former president Jacob Zuma’s alleged role in state capture on the testimony led against him when it submits its report to president Cyril Ramaphosa later this year.

It’s chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, told a media briefing on Wednesday that it would have been better had Zuma returned to the commission to face questions on his evidence and that of his accusers.

But, with many witnesses having given evidence and corroborated each other, Zondo was satisfied that the commission would be able to make “clear findings” based on the evidence it had.

Zuma knew what the various witnesses had said about him in their evidence implicating him, but had “chosen to keep quiet” when he had a chance to challenge the allegations.  

Zondo said Zuma’s legal team had made it clear that even if he did participate in the commission, there was no guarantee that he would cooperate.

“I do not know that even if he did comply, how much help he would have been,” Zondo said.

“We will assess and review evidence that has been led. Whatever we have to say about Mr Zuma’s role and the role of many others will be in the report,” Zondo said.

On Tuesday, the constitutional court sentenced Zuma to 15 months imprisonment for contempt of its order compelling the former president to return to the commission to face cross-examination by its legal team and to answer questions about evidence led against him.

Zondo said the commission had been left with no choice but to take legal action against Zuma to defend its integrity.

Zondo said the court ruling was “‘very important” for South Africa as a constitutional democracy. “It reaffirms the principle that we are all equal before the law. It underlines the importance of accountability in our constitutional democracy. We welcome the judgment.”

He said the judiciary had again “stepped forward and done what is expected of it”.

Responding to questions about potential threats to his security and that of other commission staff, Zondo said a threat assessment was being conducted and that he anticipated security would be tightened. 

Turning to the “vociferous” attacks on himself and other members of the judiciary, Zondo said the constitutional court had “spoken” and made it clear that it would not allow a situation in which “unfounded allegations can be thrown at the judiciary”.

“I have personally been subjected to various attacks by Mr Zuma. I have sought to continue to do my work, and to do my work without fear, favour or prejudice. It has been difficult for myself and my family, but there is a job to be done,” Zondo said. “Within the commission, the situation has been difficult for many people, with all these attacks.

“I had no hesitation in agreeing to do it. I knew that there could be all kinds of challenges, but that was fine. Somebody had to do it and I agreed to do it. I would do it again,” Zondo said.

He said the commission would still hear evidence from a small number of witnesses, including President Cyril Ramaphosa, before wrapping up its work and submitting its report to Ramaphosa.