After enduring a torrid week of intense questioning followed by threats to withdraw from the Zondo commission, former president Jacob Zuma’s “wilful participation” will continue next month after his legal team and the commission’s reached consensus on Friday on the way forward.
After a meeting of minds, the two legal teams agreed that under the new terms Zuma would be furnished with a document within two weeks, detailing the areas of interest in each witness’ testimony that has implicated him, which the commission’s legal team would seek to explore.
The two legal teams have been mandated by the commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, to agree on dates next month on which Zuma will again appear before the commission and make his submissions.
The difficulty in proceedings this week appeared to arise from how best to address the “concerns” that the former president had with the hard-hitting line of questioning from the commission’s legal team, which he described as “amounting to cross-examination”.
The aggrieved Zuma and his lawyers said this went against the “false pretenses under which he was lured” to appear before the commission.
Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane had objected several times indicating that Zuma was asked to “avail himself as a guest to the commission” and was now “unlike other witnesses who have appeared before him being treated like an accused”.
Zuma and his legal team also challenged the refusal by the commission’s legal team to furnish him with the exact questions they would be asking him during his stay on the witness stand.
The refusal was justified by the commission’s legal team head, and evidence leader, Advocate Paul Pretorius, who argued that his team would not buckle to pressure from the former president’s legal team and compromise their own “obligations as mandated by the terms and reference of the commission”.
Pretorius argued that Zuma’s legal team sought to exercise control over how he should go about questioning their client.
“What I do find disturbing is the way control is exercised in which my legal team asks questions to Mr Zuma,” he said.
Pretorius also argued that his line of questioning did not amount to cross examination as he was “not seeking to make a finding but only to get as much information from the witness so as to assist the commission chair to arrive at an informed finding”.
Constitutional law scholar Pierre De Vos, in a newspaper column this week, argued that the commission’s legal team would be within its terms of reference if it asked Zuma hard-hitting questions.
De Vos contended that the commission followed an “inquisitorial process” which is a legal process where the “adjudicator” – in this case the commission – is actively involved in proof-taking by investigating the facts of the case.