New Era

Zondo slaps down Zuma bid for recusal


JOHANNESBU­RG - The head of a South African panel investigat­ing rampant state corruption under Jacob Zuma shot down yesterday a bid by the ex-president to have him step aside.

Zuma, seeking what he called an “impartial” judge, had accused Judge Raymond Zondo of bias and demanded he recuse himself.

But Zondo tossed out the applicatio­n, saying it “failed to meet the test for a reasonable apprehensi­on of bias.”

“The applicatio­n for my recusal falls... and it is accordingl­y dismissed,” ruled Zondo who is also deputy chief justice of South Africa’s Constituti­onal Court.

Zuma’s lawyer fought back, telling Zondo “you have become a judge in a dispute that involves yourself.”

He requested proceeding­s be suspended so that he could review the judgement.

Wearing a blue face mask, Zuma sat throughout the hour-long ruling, seemingly nonchalant.

After a short recess, he did not return to the court. He had been expected to face a request to take to the witness stand.

Zondo was dismayed at Zuma’s apparent walkout.

“It is a pity that he has elected to leave without asking for permission,” said Zondo. “This is a serious matter.”

Zuma is suspected of having enabled widespread looting of state assets during his 2009-18 presidency.

Lavish government contracts were awarded to an Indian business family, the Guptas, among other scandals.

Zondo, has headed the judicial inquiry commission since it was set up in early 2018 when Zuma was still in office.

But relations between the two men have been frosty over the past year.

At least 34 witnesses have directly or indirectly implicated Zuma, but he has denied any wrongdoing.

He has only testified once, in July 2019.

He pulled out after a few days saying he was being treated as an “accused” rather than as witness.

Since then he has not testified again, citing health concerns or his preparatio­n for another corruption case.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) forced Zuma to step down in 2018, and his successor Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle corruption.

 ?? Photo: Nampa/AFP ?? Staying put… Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo.
Photo: Nampa/AFP Staying put… Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo.

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