The JG Zuma foundation has issued a statement in retort to the Deputy Chief Justice’s remarks at the State Capture Inquiry on Monday. The text, issued on behalf of the foundation, accuses Zondo of having an “obsession” with Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma’s foundation has slammed Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The document, whose author(s) are not cited, records disappointment at Zondo’s “obsession” with Zuma:
“His media conference was ill-advised and utterly inappropriate for a person of his seniority in the judiciary,” it reads.
Tit for tat
The statement, released by the JG Zuma foundation, asserts inconsistency in how Zondo has treated the Minister of Public Enterprises versus how he has treated the former Head of State.
“His attacks on President Zuma and his legal representatives was absolutely unjustified and prejudicial,” it reads.
Daily Maverick contacted a member of Zuma’s legal team. The member declined to comment, indicating there would be ongoing engagements with Zondo and the secretariat.
The foundation’s statement insinuates Zondo is partisan:
“He has not called a press conference to respond to Minister Pravin Jamnandas Gordhan when he failed even to file an affidavit to explain his non-appearance,” it reads.
A litany of grievances
The searing text of little over two pages was issued two days after Zondo provided an update on the status of correspondence with Zuma’s lawyers and announced the dates of Zuma’s next appearance.
“This commission has made it clear to the attorneys who represented him before that this commission does not negotiate dates with witnesses,” added Zondo.
Zuma, via his attorneys, listed three reasons why he would not appear this week. Now, his foundation has taken a swipe at Zondo, asserting that the notice about the sitting was only provided at the eleventh hour.
“During his media conference, the Chairperson omitted to mention that the very instructions regarding the date of 9 October 2020 and 16 to 20 November 2020 were only communicated to President Zuma’s attorneys on Friday, 18 September 2020,” records the statement.
“Unprovoked, the Chairperson calls the press conference, insinuating that [former] President Zuma or his lawyers have defied him when they have not even responded to the letter of 18 September 2020. It is regrettable, though not surprising, that he decides that the way to deal with the matter is through the media.”
Zuma’s grounds for not attending this week included: preparation for his criminal trial regarding the Arms Deal in which French arms firm Thales is a co-accused, medical advice on limiting his movements in light of COVID-19 and Zuma seeking counsel following a critical change in the inquiry’s regulations in July 2020.
Curious and curiouser
On Monday morning Zondo said, “I do not want to comment at this stage on his reasons for deciding that he would not appear before this commission this week.”
Zondo announced that on Friday, 9 October 2020 he would hear an application from the inquiry’s legal team arguing he authorise the issuing of a summons against Zuma.
The recent statement from Zuma’s foundation hints at a possible legal retort to any argument Zondo may hear early next month. It reads:
“The so-called application relating to the subpoena seems redundant and moot as it relates to dates that have passed.
“It is clear to us that the legal team of the Commission, in their curious wisdom, believes it can turn an old application, with old set of facts, into a new application for a future subpoena.”
Jump to the left, step to the right
Zuma’s cooperation with the inquiry has vacillated. The final day of his first appearance in mid-2019 began with the withdrawal of his participation in the process altogether as he was effectively being cross-examined.
On Friday, 19 July 2019, Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC announced, “My client has instructed me that he will take no further part in these proceedings. He respected you, he still does. He respects the commission but the commission does not seem to know its ground rules.”
Zuma sat in the witness seat with arms clasped and listened as his lawyer warned Zondo against political interference in the inquiry’s work. Sikhakhane indicated Zuma’s team was contemplating approaching the courts to challenge the commission.
“I’m imploring you. I think there’s something wrong – not with you, not with any particular person – I’m pleading with you sir to really, really check whether your process has not become a political process where the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing,” Sikhakhane said to applause from the gallery of Zuma supporters.
Following discussions in chambers, Zuma changed his mind and undertook to return to the commission. Since then, however, he has not yet reappeared before Zondo. To critics this is bare proof of Zuma’s notorious Stalingrad strategy.
“I’m perfectly fine”
Zuma, who is 78-years-old, has raised ongoing health troubles among reasons for failing to appear before Zondo. He cited ill health as grounds for failing to appear in court in his criminal trial, too.
“If the former president, Mr Jacob Zuma, wishes to say anything in opposition to Mrs Redi Tlhabi’s application for leave to give evidence and cross-examine him, he must deliver written submissions to the secretary on or before Monday, 9 December 2019,” Zondo said last year.
Zuma failed to meet the December 2019 deadline, and his lawyers notified the secretariat he was undergoing medical treatment for poisoning in Cuba. Zuma returned to South Africa via France, on a commercial flight.
Weeks later, the former President bounced back. On Friday, 27 December 2019 Zuma’s foundation held its annual chess tournament near his Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma said, “I heard some people saying he was spotted at the chess tournament but he is so weak that he couldn’t even play. Why didn’t you ask me how I feel? Why write something without asking me? What’s wrong? Because I have all my strength. I’m perfectly fine.”
A cry for help
Insofar as the raps against Zondo in the Wednesday’s statement from the JG Zuma Foundation reflect Zuma’s own views, the document indicates rising rancour against the South African judiciary’s second-in-command.
Whoever authored the statement has urged Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng to intervene:
“We call upon the Chief Justice to remind the Chairperson that he is not above the law and that he is accountable to the Constitution and not those who seek to peddle the theory of state capture that only serves to punish certain people while protecting those who are for now powerful.”
Zuma’s detractors will view his foundation’s statement as further proof of his reluctance to answer for his conduct as Head of State, particularly about his cosy relationship with the Gupta family.
Three months after Zuma’s sole appearance before Zondo, his son Duduzane Zuma testified. “He’s my guy,” the younger Zuma said of Rajesh “Tony” Gupta, who has since been blacklisted by the US Treasury.
In October 2019 Duduzane Zuma concluded his testimony with some spin:
“I am looked at as a criminal, and this face of corruption, this guy who has plundered trillions out of this country, which is not the case, by the way, so I would just like to say to the public out there I’m not corrupt, I’m not taking money from anyone,” he said.
The same month, the US Treasury sanctioned the three Gupta brothers and close associate Salim Essa. More recently, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) was granted an order to access Gupta financial records held at more than a dozen New York banks.
As Zuma was unable to appear this week, Zondo set down five days for his evidence in November 2020. Previously, Zuma testified over five days in July 2019. Evidence heard since Monday, 21 September 2020 has focused on a flagrantly wasteful R1-billion housing project in the Free State. DM