Zuma Foundation reads Judge Zondo the riot act – accuses Zondo of “contaminating and compromising” the commission

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By: Sello Theletsane

JOHANNESBURG- The Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Mhlanganyelwa Zuma Foundation has on Wednesday expressed its distress by the utterances of the Chairperson of the State Capture Commission, Deputy Chief Justice R. Zondo at his “extraordinary media conference designed to humiliate President Zuma and his attorneys.”

The Foundation said the attacks by Judge Zondo on President Zuma and his legal representatives was absolutely unjustified and prejudicial.

“The Chairperson lacks this courage when faced with the open defiance by certain people, who have refused to appear before the commission. He has not called a press conference to respond to Minister Pravin Jamnandas Gordhan when he failed even to file an affidavit to explain his non-appearance. This inconsistency and fear of the powerful is not expected from the man who occupies the second highest office in the judiciary,” said the Foundation.

“We are disappointment at the Chairperson’s obsession with President Zuma. His media conference was ill-advised and utterly inappropriate for a person of his seniority in the judiciary. This comes after his unprecedented and prejudicial statements he made in his exchange with Mr Vincent Smith, wherein he made unwarranted conclusions about President Zuma in his absence, publicly insinuating that he was guilty or part of state capture.”

According to the Jacob Zuma Foundation, the Chairperson omitted to mention during his media conference that the very instructions regarding the date of 9 October 2020 and 16-20 November 2020 were only communicated to President Zuma’s attorneys on Friday, 18 September 2020. Unprovoked, the Chairperson calls the press conference, insinuating that President Zuma or his lawyers have defied him when they have not even responded to the letter of 18 September 2020. “It is regrettable, though not surprising, that he decides that the way to deal with the matter is through the media.”

“We respect the judiciary, but remind the Chairperson that he is not above the law himself and that he must be consistent in how he deals with witnesses and implicated persons. No witness, even the most arrogant and the most petulant, have inspired the Chairperson to call a media briefing merely to castigate them. No race, class or position in government should guarantee any witness the Chairperson’s docility,” the Foundation said.

“We believe that the Chairperson could have waited for President Zuma’s legal representatives to respond to his instructions that only came on Friday before his hastened media briefing on Monday. President Zuma has always indicated that, despite his misgivings about the legality of the Commission, he respects it and would cooperate. However, it appears that the Chairperson is determined to prejudice him, to humiliate him. It is clear for all to see that the Chairperson has made up his mind that he will treat President Zuma harshly in order to secure for himself a future career in the highest office in the judiciary.

“It is equally regrettable that the Chairperson elected to omit certain facts in his address. He omits to mention that in his previous ruling, it is he who told the public that he would meet President Zuma’s doctor. This, because he did not believe that President Zuma was indeed ill at the time. He has done no such thing. He also elects to omit that the application for a subpoena relates to President Zuma’s previous dates which coincided with his treatment overseas.”

As maintained by the Foundation, the so-called application relating to the subpoena seems redundant and moot as it relates to dates that have passed. “It is clear to us that the legal team of the Commission, in their curious wisdom, believes it can turn an old application, with old set of facts, into a new application for a future subpoena.”

In addition the Foundation said: “We note that the Chairperson was selective in the reason stated in the letter from President Zuma’s attorneys for his non-appearance on 21-25 September 2020. He only mentions those he finds convenient to the message he seeks to communicate, namely, that President Zuma is not cooperating. Such conduct, in our respectful view, is far beneath his judicial office.”

The Foundation furthermore, called upon the Chairperson to be consistent in dealing with witnesses, to be fair to President Zuma, even if he has already found him guilty. By calling the media conference, the Chairperson has jeopardized a great opportunity for cooperation.

“We believe that it serves no purpose to call an implicated person you have already judged while you refuse to call other witnesses simply because their testimony contradicts your brief or narrative you seek to confirm.

“We call upon the Chief Justice to remind the Chairperson that he is not above the law and that he is accountable to the Constitution and not those who seek to peddle the theory of state capture that only serves to punish certain people while protecting those who are for now powerful.
This Commission is very important for the country and the Chairperson, through his monologues and attempts at pleasing certain sections of our society, is contaminating it and may end up compromising the entire process and the public funds that have been spent on him and the Commission.

“We also call upon the Chairperson not to allow his personal issues with President Zuma to blind his judgment. We call upon the Chairperson not to play to the media gallery as such conduct belongs outside the judiciary,” the Jacob Zuma Foundation said.

In conclusion, the Foundation also added that it is inappropriate for the judiciary to use the media to tarnish the reputation of
parties in legal proceedings just to seek favour with the media at the expense of the process and other witnesses.