Zuma ‘still too ill’ to appear at Zondo inquiry
• Legal team head Pretorius says it has been told the former president is being treated, but NPA says there is no word on arms deal trial unavailibility
Former president Jacob Zuma is still ill and will not be able to appear before the state capture inquiry later in January, the commission’s chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, was told on Tuesday. The head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius, said the team has been informed that Zuma is ill and is receiving treatment in SA and abroad, and that he will not be available before March.
Former president Jacob Zuma is still ill and will not be able to appear before the state capture inquiry later in January, the commission’s chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, was told on Tuesday.
The head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius, said the team had been informed that Zuma was ill and was receiving treatment in SA and abroad, and that he will not be available before March.
Zuma, his son Duduzane and friends of theirs, the Gupta family, have been at the centre of allegations of state capture, which brought the state to its knees during the former president’s term of office.
Zuma made his first appearance at the commission in July 2019 and was meant to return to answer questions in November of the same year.
During this first appearance Zuma told the commission of a 30-year-old plot to get rid of him. When questioned, he gave vague answers and accused the commission of crossexamining him.
Zuma’s next appearance in his corruption matter, which relates to the multimillion-rand arms deal, is in February.
The National Prosecutions Authority in KwaZulu-Natal said on Tuesday it had not been informed that Zuma would be unable to appear in court.
“The state has not received any notification from Mr Zuma's attorney or any other legal representative in this regard,” spokesperson Natasha Kara said.
The former president did not turn up when his second appearance was due in November,
his lawyers saying he was too ill to take the witness stand.
Last week, the commission said it was preparing to subpoena Zuma to compel him to complete his testimony. It said Zondo would hear an application by the legal team for an order authorising the acting secretary of the commission to summon the former president to appear from January 27 to 31.
Witnesses appearing before the commission could face legal consequences should they evade questions and obstruct Zondo and other members of the commission, and could be subjected to a fine or imprisonment of up to 12 months.
Pretorius said the legal team received an answering affidavit from Zuma on Monday afternoon dealing with his health and legal issues concerning the chair’s right to compel witnesses to appear. It also attacked the integrity of the commission.
Pretorius said Zuma’s medical condition was not disclosed in the affidavit but that confidential information would be provided to Zondo in chambers.
Zondo said it was a good thing that Zuma was offering to make the information available without being compelled to do so, but that he felt some discomfort about being privy to such information.
“I may have to see what he offers to let me see, but if I do so I would not be doing so without any reluctance,” the deputy chief justice said.
“From what I have been told, in the affidavit it seems that what he is offering [to tell me] may reveal his illness and I have some discomfort with having to see anybody’s information relating to anybody’s illness.”
Advocate Thabani Masuku, for Zuma, took issue with the statement issued by the commission last week regarding the application to subpoena the former president.
He asked that the commission, particularly the leaders of the legal team, “extend to us the presumption of integrity”.
Masuku said it was “embarrassing” to have to tell the commission that Zuma had a medical condition under the threat of a subpoena, and that despite this the legal team wanted to continue with the arguments.
“It tells us ... there is a deepseated antipathy towards our client,” he said.
Masuku also asked that the commission’s legal team not be given an “open-ended order” to summon Zuma.
Pretorius said the commission learnt of Zuma’s medical condition at 4pm on Monday and would not persist with seeking a summons for the dates in January.
“But, we will seek summons for a later date,” he said.
After meeting the commission and Zuma’s legal team, Zondo ordered that a responding affidavit be filed by the close of business next Friday.