FORMER President Jacob Zuma and his legal team walked out of the commission of inquiry into State Capture without permission on Thursday despite appearing under a summons.
His dramatic walk out follows Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s dismissal of the former president’s recusal application.
Zondo said that this was a serious matter as Zuma was supposed to take the witness stand soon after his application for recusal was dismissed on Thursday and Friday.
The commission will not sit on Friday as a result of Zuma’s walkout, which could see him issued with a warrant of arrest for defying to summons to testify before the commission, according to legal experts.
In his application, Zuma accused Zondo of bias and demanded he recuse himself.
But Zondo ruled on Thursday that the applicant failed to meet the test for reasonable apprehension of bias.
“The application for my recusal falls and it is accordingly dismissed,” ruled Zondo.
Zuma’s lawyer Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane said he plans to lay a complaint at the Judicial Service Commission and accused Zondo of having become “a judge in a dispute that involves yourself”.
Earlier, he argued: “Apart from the animosity out there, which is political, you and I have the duty to ensure a legal process which is called a commission of inquiry – whether other people see it as a political platform to destroy their enemies is not our concern as lawyers. Our concern is R1bn or so has been poured into this process. Are we going to be fair if at the end that report is driven by a narrative which simply accepts there is one version?”
The former president’s legal steps against the commission and its chairman are widely seen as delaying tactics to avoid facing questions about his role in alleged corruption that occurred largely from 2009 to 2018.
Zuma this week appeared before the commission for the first time in more than a year after abandoning his testimony in 2019.
The ex-president pulled out after a few days, saying he was being treated as an “accused” rather than as a witness.
Since then he has not testified again, citing health concerns or his preparation for another corruption case related to a 1990s arms deal.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) forced Zuma to step down in 2018, and his successor Cyril Ramaphosa has promised to tackle corruption.
The largest opposition Democratic Alliance party slammed Zuma’s “spurious” bid as aimed at derailing the work of the commission that has so far cost the South African taxpayer more than 700 million rand ($45 million).
(SOURCE: Additional reporting by news agencies)