Zondo must step down as state capture commission chair: Zuma

Zuma's lawyer says there is 'special focus and targeting' of the former president

28 September 2020 - 18:13
Former president Jacob Zuma. File photo
Former president Jacob Zuma. File photo
Image: Thuli Dlamini

There has been "special focus and targeting" of former president Jacob Zuma - as well as an "unnecessary and premature public rebuke" - and the state capture commission chair is to blame.

So says the lawyer representing the former president, who wrote to deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo on Monday to request that he recuse himself.

The letter comes after Zondo hosted a press conference last week, where he said, among other things, that he "will not negotiate" dates for Zuma's next appearance before the commission. Zondo also fixed new dates for Zuma's appearance for November 16 to 20 .

Zuma's supporters, including his foundation and his son Edward, have been critical of Zondo's approach. The former president himself has now, through his lawyer Eric Mabuza, formally voiced his disapproval.

"President Zuma’s conclusion that the chairperson [Zondo] is no longer capable of exercising an independent and impartial mind is fortified by what he views as the unwarranted public statements made by the chairperson at the said media briefing," Mabuza wrote on Zuma's behalf.

Mabuza accuses Zondo of deliberately painting Zuma in a negative light - including portraying him as a "liar" and "guilty at all costs". 

"Viewed in the context of previous media statements, the conduct of the chairperson and treatment of President Zuma by the commission, the chairperson’s utterances have left President Zuma with the distinct impression that the chairperson seeks to target him for special treatment and public humiliation," Mabuza writes.

The letter alleged that Zondo's targeting of Zuma "stems from the fact that [Zuma] and the chairperson have historical personal, family and professional relations that ought to have been publicly disclosed by the chairperson before accepting his appointment".

Specifics were not provided, but Mabuza said Zuma would file a detailed affidavit outlining his reasons for requesting Zondo's recusal.

Mabuza said some of the reasons for the request include:

  • "The chairperson’s election to reserve media conferences for President Zuma attests to the fact that he seeks to portray him as uncooperative and belligerent in the eyes of the public. No other witness has been subjected to such public rebuke through the media,"
  • "It has become commonplace for the commission to parade a particular narrative through witnesses and to treat certain witnesses, particularly those who implicate President Zuma, with deference. It is apparent to President Zuma that the commission seeks to entrench a narrative that portrays him as guilty at all costs,"
  • "The chairperson, in his engagements with witnesses testifying before him, has already prejudged the very issues he is tasked to investigate. In particular, he has already made prejudicial statements about President Zuma while addressing some witnesses who had made no reference to President Zuma,"
  • "The chairperson refused to believe that President Zuma’s failure to appear before the commission early this year was due to his travel to seek medical treatment, again publicly portraying him as a liar," and
  • "The chairperson has joined the narrative that seeks to present President Zuma as the cause of all the corruption he is tasked to investigate."

"President Zuma has always expressed his willingness to cooperate with the commission. This is in spite of his reservations about the legality of the commission and in particular, your suitability as chairperson, given your personal relations with him," the letter reads.

"However, the conduct of the chairperson towards him has left President Zuma with no choice but to take this step in order to defend his rights as a citizen. President Zuma believes that the chairperson’s conduct has stripped this commission of its much required and vaunted legitimacy."

It adds that Zuma will take "no further part" in the commission - "and the chairperson is entitled to take any such step as he deems lawful and appropriate".

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