Former president Jacob Zuma’s troubles with the law keep piling up. This after judge Raymond Zondo, chairperson of the Zondo commission, said on Monday he will open a criminal case against Zuma for walking out of the state capture inquiry last week.
Zuma walked out after Zondo dismissed his application to have him recuse himself from chairing the forum.
Here’s how we got there:
November 16: Zondo hears Zuma’s application
On Monday last week, Zuma’s lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane accused Zondo of making Zuma feel uncomfortable with his comments. He said the selection of state capture witnesses and comments made by Zondo were problematic in that they feed into a narrative that Zuma destroyed SA.
Sikhakhane said remarks made by Zondo during testimonies of these witnesses made Zuma feel as though the forum is “out to lynch” him.
“I am not suggesting you’ve prejudged this matter in any way. I am saying to you in your comments in his absence, I want you to walk with me and look at whether a reasonable person, accused as he is, would be unreasonable to feel the forum seeks to punish him, lynch him, to agree with people who have come here to lynch him.”
November 16: Zondo denies friendship with Zuma
Before the hearing on Monday, Zondo dismissed Zuma’s claims of a friendship, saying their relationship had always been a professional one. Zondo said he never had a one-on-one meeting with Zuma during Zuma’s nine-year tenure as president.
“Though Mr Zuma and I have a cordial relationship, Mr Zuma’s statement that we are friends is not recorded accurately. He has never been to any of my residences and I have never invited him.
“Mr Zuma and I do not socialise and have never socialised together. I have never invited Mr Zuma to any of my birthday parties. I have never attended a funeral of any members of the Zuma family,” said Zondo.
November 18: Zuma says, no, but we’re friends
Sunday Times Daily reported that Zuma, in his recusal application, maintained that he and Zondo were friends. He said that when Zondo was elevated to the bench, they discussed whether their personal relationship would jeopardise his judicial career.
“We agreed that we would relate in a manner that would ensure that his judicial career is not adversely affected. I understood and appreciated that he wanted to draw a line in my relationship with him that could not create the public perception that he relied on me, as president, to rise in his judicial career.”
November 19: Zondo dismisses recusal application, Zuma walks out
On Thursday, Zondo dismissed Zuma’s application for his recusal at the commission. Responding to Zuma’s complaint about witnesses, Zondo said the commission is entitled to call any available witnesses and ask them questions.
“The commission was free to use any witnesses available as long as the applicant was afforded time and opportunity to come to deal with whatever evidence they raised. I am entitled to ask witnesses questions and seek clarification on their evidence.”
After the ruling dismissing Zuma’s application, Sikhakhane told Zondo that they were “excusing ourselves” from the proceedings. His team left during a brief adjournment and never returned.
Zondo said the commission viewed this as a serious matter and would consider further action.
“Mr Zuma has left, I have been told … He has left today without asking me to be excused. This is a serious matter.
“In terms of the plans for the commission, he was going to be asked to take the witness stand and be questioned about various matters relating to matters we are investigating as the commission.
“It is a pity that he has elected to leave without asking for permission.”
November 23: Zondo says he will open criminal charges against Zuma
Zondo on Monday instructed the secretary of the inquiry to open a criminal complaint against Zuma for walking out of the inquiry. TimesLIVE reports that Zuma may be liable to a fine and/or imprisonment of up to six months if found guilty.
Zondo said this was done to send a strong message about the seriousness of his commission.