Zuma asks S.African graft commission head to recuse himself
South African former president Jacob Zuma on Monday requested that the head of a commission investigating rampant state corruption during his nine-year reign recuse himself over “bias”, his lawyers said.
For more than two years, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo has chaired a commission that has heard testimony from ministers, ex-ministers, government officials, lawmakers and business executives, with many giving damning evidence against Zuma, portraying his 2009-2018 presidency as a time of systematic looting of state assets.
The former president has repeatedly refused to testify to the commission, most recently last week when he claimed he was too ill.
Zondo then held televised media briefing, setting “non-negotiable” dates for Zuma to testify on November 16-20 to the judicial commission, which was established to probe the “state capture” scandal.
Zuma’s lawyer Eric Mabuza said in a letter sent to the commission that Zondo was no longer capable of “exercising an independent and impartial mind”.
“We are instructed to seek your recusal as Chairperson of the Commission on the ground that our client reasonably apprehends that you have already adopted a biased disposition towards him.”
During Zondo’s televised address to his panel last week, he warned that “this commission does not negotiate dates with witnesses”.
“People are supposed to appear,” he said.
Zuma’s legal team reportedly stated that the former president was unable to attend because of health risks associated with travel and that their client was “busy” preparing for a separate corruption trial in January.
Mabuza on Monday said that due to the personal and professional history between Zuma and Zondo, the chairman had joined the narrative that seeks to present the ex-president as “the cause of all the corruption he is tasked to investigate”.
The lawyer said that Zondo’s decision to hold a televised conference just for Zuma “attests to the fact that he seeks to portray him as uncooperative and belligerent in the eyes of the public.”
Zuma plans on filing a formal application to have Zondo recuse himself from the commission.
Zuma was forced to resign in February 2018 over graft scandals centred around an Indian business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.
His successor President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle corruption in South Africa, which has been led by the African National Congress party since Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 after the end of apartheid.