Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo was uncompromising when he intervened to prevent former president Jacob Zuma from no longer appearing at the state capture commission.
Zondo did not fall for Zuma’s legal team’s apparent ploy to collapse the session and have their client go off without testifying. He was also clear that he would not allow the Zuma team to drive a wedge between himself as chair and the evidence team led by Advocate Paul Pretorius.
Zuma’s team had argued that their client had been “lured” to the commission under false pretences and was now being subjected to adversarial cross-examination, as though this were a court of law rather than a truth-seeking inquiry.
“I ... don’t want Mr Pretorius or the commission’s legal team to be criticised for the decision that I made. I believe it was the correct decision – I still believe it is the correct decision,” said Zondo.
“In this room, I am the only person who ultimately must make decisions ... I and I alone must make those decisions. I believe that, as far as is practical, I must hear all sides. And it is in that context that I made a decision that I’d like to hear the former president’s side of the story.”
Zuma’s team sought to protect him from telling what he knows by obfuscating, interrupting and attacking. While they are entitled to employ any legal tactic to serve their client, South Africa is entitled to hear the truth from the man who swore to uphold the Constitution, “promote all that will advance the republic and oppose all that may harm it”.
Zuma is not an accused. He is merely someone who has been implicated by other witnesses as a participant in the undermining of the Constitution and the harming of the republic. He is now being given a chance to deny these testimonies and enlighten the nation about what he knows about the dark decade from which we have just emerged.
As a patriotic citizen and as someone who took that solemn oath, he should fully and honestly cooperate with the Zondo commission instead of impeding its work, as he did before he appeared and as he has done during his testimony this week.
If this were not a family newspaper governed by the press code, we would characterise Zuma’s antics in very strong language. What we can get away with, however, is to say he has been giving South Africa and the commission the middle finger and yelling: “Stuff you all!”