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

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Genevieve Quin­tal Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor quin­[email protected]­nesslive.co.za

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.

Ja­cob Zuma

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