Former spy boss Fraser objects to Zondo’s nomination as chief justice

Arthur Fraser, an ally of former president Jacob Zuma and the former intelligence head in the previous administration, has filed a formal objection against the nomination of acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to become the next head of the judiciary.

Fraser said he believed that Zondo was biased in his handling of testimony against him at the state capture inquiry and lacked the fair-mindedness to become chief justice.

“Deputy Chief Justice Zondo made sure that I neither present my version, nor get an opportunity to cross examine those he called to testify against me. No independent-minded judge would act in this manner,” he said in a nine-page letter to the panel compiling a shortlist of nominees.

The panel was appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa to lend greater transparency to the appointment of a new chief justice and invited public nominations and objections.

“It is my sincere belief that his conduct renders him no longer fit to be a judge, let alone chief justice of the republic of South Africa,” Fraser added in bold letters.

Fraser went on to accuse Zondo of conducting his work as chairman of the state capture inquiry to curry favour with Ramaophosa so that he would be appointed as the next chief justice.

Fraser served as director general of the State Security Agency (SSA) under Zuma and was heavily implicated by witnesses in the subversion of intelligence structures to pursue his political and personal aims, at times through unlawful intelligence projects costing millions of rands. According to Loyisa Jafta, who served several terms as the SSA’s acting director general, the abuse of the system extended to a project to bribe judges to rule in favour of Zuma. 

The commission also heard testimony that Fraser sidelined senior officials, bypassed the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence when appointing deputy directors general and personally signed off on bribes to the media.

In his letter of objection, Fraser notes that Jafta and others implicated him in the abuse of some R9-billion. He has opened a case of perjury against six people who testified against him at the Zondo commission.

“He deliberately permitted no less than 10 witnesses to present falsehoods about me without affording me even one opportunity to defend myself against any of the allegations made against me,” Fraser said.

“I have reason to believe that Deputy Chief Justice Zondo did this in order to endear himself with the ruling political class so that he can secure the position of chief justice.”

Fraser, as director general of correctional services, granted Zuma medical parole in September, securing his release after serving a fraction of his sentence for contempt of court for defying an order of the constitutional court to testify before the Zondo commission. In doing so Fraser overruled the medical parole board, but his decision is said to have had the tacit support of Ramaphosa.

Shortly afterwards, he found himself out of a job when his contract was not renewed. 

His objection to Zondo’s nomination echoes Zuma’s invective against the deputy judge president. The former president routinely accuses Zondo of bias and, in a missive last year, implied that the judge had while he was president met him privately in an attempt to advance his career. 

“His conduct and treatment of witnesses that did not fit the commission’s narrative demonstrates his lack of judicial independence and ability to act without fear or favour,” Fraser continued.

He concluded dramatically: “Such a person cannot and should never be entrusted with the highest judicial office in the land. His appointment would signal the death of our judiciary and have a corrosive effect on our democratic values as a country.”

Fraser’s objection was submitted by Eric Mabuza, Zuma’s erstwhile attorney of record.

The presidency said on Wednesday that Fraser’s objection formed part of more than 500 pages of public comment received by the independent panel in support of and in objection to nominees on the shortlist. 

“The panel is in the process of evaluating these comments and engaging nominees on these submissions,” it said.

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