- Since Monday, Zuma has faced a series of questions that implicated him.
- The presiding judge, Raymond Zondo, regretted the withdrawal of the former president and defended the proceedings.
- Once the hearings are over, the anti-corruption commission must submit its conclusions, which can be forwarded to the prosecution for possible charges.
Jacob Zuma, former South Africa president ended his cooperation Friday with a corruption investigation focused on his time in office, saying it was biased. Zuma 77, testified since Monday before the commission to shed light on the many scandals that have tarnished his presidency (2009-2018) and forced him to resign a year and a half ago.
But Wednesday the commission suspended the hearing of the former president. There was supposed to be a final day of testimony Friday if a compromise was reached on the terms of the hearing, which did not happen. “We are here today to say that we will no longer participate in this procedure,” said one of Zuma’s defenders, Muzi Sikhakhane, before the inquiry committee sitting in Johannesburg. “From the beginning, our client was treated as an accused,” added the lawyer to supporters applause of the former leader, adding it is “…a political process where the left-hand does not know what the right hand does.”
Since Monday, Zuma has faced a series of questions that implicated him. On the merits, the former head of state denied any involvement in the corruption cases cited, shouting “slander” and denouncing a “plot” to eliminate or even “murder” him. “I do not remember,” he said often as he largely dodged specific questions.
The presiding judge, Raymond Zondo, regretted the withdrawal of the former president and defended the proceedings. “I was hoping he would cooperate, which he did by agreeing to come,” he said. “The first goal was to give him an opportunity to give his version of the story.”
The Commission of Inquiry Chief Advocate denied any particular hostility towards the former leader. “Mr. Zuma and his defense are actually asking to be exempted from the rules,” said Paul Pretorius. “If the questions are specific and difficult, that’s normal,” he said. “Not only we have the right to ask them, but it is also our duty.”
Once the hearings are over, the anti-corruption commission must submit its conclusions, which can be forwarded to the prosecution for possible charges. Investigators, whose hearings are expected to last another year, do not have the power to charge anyone. Many testimonies, often broadcast live on television, were overwhelming for Jacob Zuma who appeared this week for the first time before the commission of inquiry.
The commission was set up in accordance with the injunctions of the Republic’s 2016 mediator. Thuli Madonsela, responsible for the proper use of public funds. The former president said Monday that it was established to dig his “grave.”
In a very compromising official report for Mr. Zuma, Ms. Madonsela detailed how siblings of Indian origin, the Guptas, looted public resources with the complicity of the president and participated in the management of state affairs, including the appointment of ministers. The Gupta has since left South Africa to settle in Dubai.
At first, Jacob Zuma refused to create the commission, demanding the cancellation of the report in court. But due to a judge’s order, he was finally forced to comply in January, 2018. A few weeks later, he resigned from the presidency of the Republic, dropped by his party the African National Congress (ANC).
He was replaced by the new ANC boss, Cyril Ramaphosa, who promised to turn the calamitous page of corruption. Despite all the accusations he faces, the former president has not been formally charged. The courts are currently pursuing one case of bribes paid in the margin of an arms contract signed 20 years ago.