Former president Jacob Zuma dodged his appearance on Monday before the State Capture inquiry, headed by Deputy Chief Justice Judge Raymond Zondo, and took refuge at his Nkandla homestead protected by the MK Military Veterans Association dressed in fake camo.
Instead, his lawyers sent a two-page letter to the commission at the 11th hour, which Zondo and the commission’s head of legal Paul Pretorius said lacked all substance in law. Pretorius said the summons served on Zuma could only be set aside by a court and that he could not choose whether to appear or not.
Zuma’s lawyers said he would not appear because the Constitutional Court is due to hear his application for Zondo’s recusal and that the summons issued for his appearance this week (February 15 to 19) was illegal.
“If the summons was irregular, the law obliged him to approach a court and ask that it be set aside on the basis that it was irregular. You can’t ignore a summons because it was irregular,” said Zondo.
In February, Zuma said in a personal social media statement that he would not appear and that he regarded the Constitutional Court’s judgment as “their law” and not applicable to him.
Pretorius said Zuma’s non-appearance was illegal and that he should have appeared before the commission to express his opinion. “Any valid reasons do not justify the failure to appear today,” said Pretorius, who said that at least 40 witnesses had implicated Zuma in instances of State Capture in the three years in which the commission has sat.
Both Zondo and Pretorius referred to Zuma’s statement and said it was clear that he would not appear even after being compelled to do so by the Constitutional Court. “That seems consistent with his conduct before this Commission on November 19. He left at a time when it had been made clear that to leave the commission without the chairperson’s consent would be a breach of the summons,” said Zondo.
The judge will decide what happens when the commission resumes on Monday afternoon.
“We are very clear about what needs to be done. Our law is not deficient in this regard,” said Zondo.
Zondo can issue a warrant for Zuma’s arrest or instruct that the police issue such a warrant. The commission laid contempt of court charges against Zuma at the Hillbrow police station in December, and the Hawks specialist police unit took over that case.
Pretorius said that as captain of the ship of state, Zuma’s evidence was necessary but not essential for Zondo to make a finding of State Capture as set out in the commission’s terms of the reference. He summarised at least 43 different areas he wanted to canvas with Zuma in this week’s hearings.