Zuma loses recusal bid, walks out of commission

Former president Jacob Zuma walked out of the state capture commission earlier today without chairperson Raymond Zondo’s permission after the judge dismissed his recusal application.
Before he left, Zuma, through his attorney, Adv Muzi Sikhakhane, said he would take Zondo’s judgment on review and report him to the Judicial Services Commission for making himself “a witness and a judge” in the matter.
Zuma had filed an application for Zondo to recuse himself as chairperson of the commission saying the deputy chief justice was biased against him.
He said the judge had adopted a biased disposition towards him and could not bring an impartial mind to the issues and evidence that related to him. This, said Zuma, was fortified by what he viewed as the “unwarranted” public statements Zondo made at a media briefing.
Zuma believed the source of the bias stemmed from the fact that he and Zondo had “historical personal and professional relations” which Zondo should have disclosed before accepting his appointment. He said Zondo’s attitude was as a result of personal matters and strained relations between them.
His impression was that Zondo sought to portray him as “uncooperative and belligerent” in the eyes of the public. Furthermore Zuma argued that the commission sought to portray a narrative that he is guilty at all costs and the cause of all the corruption Zondo is tasked to investigate.
He accused Zondo of refusing to believe that he genuinely could not appear before the commission earlier this year due to his travel to seek medical treatment. He said the judge publicly portrayed him as a liar.
Zondo rejected the allegations including that they had a historical personal relationship.
After some postponements earlier this week, Zondo finally handed down judgment this morning. He concluded: “In the end I conclude, having had regard to all the points that have been raised by the applicant including the points relating to press statements and media conferences that he has referred to in his affidavit, I conclude that the applicant has failed to meet the test for a reasonable apprehension of bias. Accordingly I conclude that the application for my recusal falls to be dismissed and it is accordingly dismissed.”
Adv Sikhakhane then informed the chairperson that they would excuse themselves from proceedings.
“Before we excuse ourselves from the proceedings, I think I have a duty to tell the chair why we will excuse ourselves so that it is not called a walk out or defiance. The instruction is to review your decision that you have just made. You will realize that, maybe I did not say this enough, that you have become a judge in the dispute that involves yourself in that you determine disputes that arise in matters that include you.
“I want to say that I have also been instructed to lodge a complaint about you in that regard to the Judicial Service Commission in respect of the issue about which you have made yourself a witness and a judge. I have no other instruction today or anywhere in the future until we have considered the review except that we would like to be excused from these proceedings.” After a short adjournment the former president and his lawyer walked out without the chairperson’s permission.
The commission’s evidence leader, Adv Paul Pretorius, said notwithstanding an intention to review Zondo’s decision, the proceedings needed to continue and that if Zuma abandoned the proceedings, he would be acting in defiance of the summons, an unlawful act.
It is not clear whether Zuma will appear before the commission in future.

Picture: GALLO IMAGES/SOWETAN/THULANI MBELE

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