‘He was the president’: Zondo says there’s no place to hide for Zuma

Mawande AmaShabalala Political journalist
Former president Jacob Zuma will have to account for his alleged role in state capture whether he likes it or not, says inquiry chair Raymond Zondo.
Former president Jacob Zuma will have to account for his alleged role in state capture whether he likes it or not, says inquiry chair Raymond Zondo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

State capture inquiry chair, deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, said on Monday there is no place to hide for former president Jacob Zuma, who has been reluctant to appear before the commission.

Zondo, in a briefing about the commission’s progress, said that even if Zuma insists he has nothing to answer for, the commission is of a different view.

As more than 30 witnesses have implicated Zuma, there is no way he is going to be left alone, said Zondo.

The only scenario in which Zuma would not be compelled to appear before the commission, is if no-one had implicated him, said Zondo.

The commission is heading to the Constitutional Court, in a matter to be heard later this month, to enforce a summons it had issued against Zuma to appear on the week starting on January 18.

Besides, Zondo said, Zuma was the head of state during the period in which rampant public sector corruption and state capture allegedly took place.

“He [Zuma] is not keen to be heard because he does not believe there are any witnesses who have implicated him. In so far as the right to be heard is concerned, it is fine if he takes that attitude, but why we need [to call him] is more because the commission needs to put questions to him on various issues arising out of evidence given by various witnesses,” said Zondo.

“If we did not have questions for him and he did not want to be heard, we would have left him alone, but there are witnesses who have given evidence that raise certain questions, and the commission wishes to put those questions to him as to what his role might have been relating to certain things.

“That is quite important because he was the president of the country during most of the time during which most of the things that the commission is investigating are alleged to have happened, and there are witnesses who allege that he played certain roles.”

Zondo said that if witness allegations against Zuma were considered, “he might have abused his position as president” and cannot expect to get away with it.

“It is important that he be questioned before any finding be made on whether he abused his powers as president.

“Because of the position he held, it is important that the commission gets an opportunity to question him and get answers from him. He is one of the people who are specifically mentioned in the terms of reference of the commission whose conduct this commission must investigate.”

Zondo also announced that the commission had mostly completed hearing evidence relating to state-owned companies, with the exception of a few witnesses that must still appear.

Among other individuals and bodies that are due to appear in the remaining three months of oral hearings are Zuma, President Cyril Ramaphosa, parliament, the state security agency and the ANC as the governing party.

Since August 2018, when oral testimony began, the commission has gathered 1 billion gigabytes of data. This evidence was made up of:

  • 278 witnesses;
  • 51,669 pages of recorded transcripts;
  • 159,109 pages of affidavits and other evidence exhibits;
  • 323 days of oral evidence hearings;
  • 2,330 rule 33 notices; and
  • 2,736 summons.


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