The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation views former President Jacob Zuma’s conduct in defying the authority of the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture in a serious light.

The former President’s recusal application was rightly dismissed on Thursday by the Commission’s Chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Instead of remaining at the Commission so that proceedings could continue, Zuma defied the summons, and walked out without the permission of the Chairperson. Zuma was to have responded to 35 affidavits of witnesses who appeared before the Commission.

The Foundation’s Executive Director, Neeshan Balton, said that Zuma’s conduct is perceived as “someone who thinks that he is above the law”.

“This is a ‘judicial’ commission of inquiry. Its rules and proceedings are meant to be upheld. When a summons is issued to an individual, and that person defies, then the Commission has every right to ensure that the summons is enforced. If someone disregards a summons, they stand a risk of being arrested or fined, or both. In the case of the former President, we want the law to take its course. The criminal justice system should act to uphold the rule of law,” Balton said.

The Foundation reiterated the views expressed by the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC): “As the Constitutional Court reminded the country in its watershed ‘Nkandla’ judgment in 2016, the President is a ‘Constitutional Being’, with a weighty responsibility to uphold and protect the Constitution. We believe that Mr Zuma’s responsibility to uphold the rule of law did not end with his resignation from office. By refusing to accept the authority of the Commission, which he himself established, Mr Zuma also sends out a very unfortunate message: that it is possible to defy due process and thereby evade accountability. There can be only one conclusion: that Mr Zuma has no intention of appearing or giving evidence before the Commission. Instead, he appears determined to undermine its credibility and authority to avoid or delay having to tell the country the truth of his time in office. He has consistently followed this same “Stalingrad” strategy in his legal wrangles relating to the “Arms Deal” charges.”

Balton added, “We commend Judge Zondo for turning down the recusal application and not acquiescing to attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the Commission. However, if the former President is simply let of the hook and not brought to account before the Commission in compliance with his summons, it sets a negative precedent for other witnesses who still have to testify and who may have a case to answer for.

“The former President must comply with the summons or face penalty. His continued attempts to derail the Commission’s progress are nothing short of a slap in the face of the South African public, who live daily with the consequences of state capture.”

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