'With or without Zuma, I will make my findings': Raymond Zondo
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo says the state capture commission will make findings and recommendations regardless of whether former president Jacob Zuma appears before it to give his side of the story.
Zondo said at a media briefing on Thursday that it would be “preferable” to hear Zuma's testimony as he was head of state when state capture allegedly happened.
Even if Zuma did not make an appearance, the commission would make findings, he added.
Zuma has twice called in sick when he was meant to appear before the commission — late in 2019 and again this month.
“I believe that it will be important for the commission to hear what he knows about all the allegations relating to state capture that the commission has heard but if ultimately he does not appear, the commission will wrap up its work ... and make its findings,” said Zondo.
“Obviously, it would be preferable for the commission to have heard evidence from implicated persons and he [Zuma] was the head of state and certain allegations have been made in regard to him.
“If for whatever reason we were to finish without him appearing, I will make my findings based on the evidence of everyone else.”
Zondo applied to the high court for an extension of the commission's lifespan to be extended to December 2020.
The commission is meant to end next month but Zondo remains hopeful that the extension will be granted, particularly after being informed by the state attorney's office that there was no objection to his application for an extension.
The deputy chief justice also defended his commission against criticism that it was a waste of taxpayers' money.
Said Zondo: “People who say this commission is a waste of time, people are entitled to their opinions to take whatever view they take. I believe this is a very important commission.
“I think it has done its job reasonably well, I do not think that we are perfect because we are not but we do our best to do this job as well as we can.
“If there was no commission that did this job, then the message would be people can engage in all kinds of corruption and they can get away with it and that would be a very wrong message,” he went on.
“If this commission was not there, then those who have done wrong things may well come back and continue because they will know that in this country you can do whatever and there will be no consequences.”
Zondo added that granting Zuma's request not to appear due to illness was not him being soft but treating Zuma with respect and dignity, as with all witnesses.
“I have sought to treat him [Zuma] as I treat everybody. I do not think there are implicated witnesses to whom I am soft. If I dealt with him in a certain way, there would be others who say I am singling him out,” said Zondo.
So far, the Zondo commission has heard evidence from more than 150 witnesses.
Transcripts of the evidence led runs to 27,000 pages while exhibits and statements were more than 450,000 pages.
“So there is a lot of work the commission has done and it is important that issues of state capture can be finalised so the public knows what really happened,” said Zondo.