The ANC is making a last-ditch attempt to persuade former president Jacob Zuma to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture this week, as he showed no sign yesterday of softening his defiance and backing down from his refusal to appear.
Zuma has been warned of possible arrest if he defies a summons to appear before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo tomorrow, a move that the ANC top brass will warn him could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
The eleventh-hour bid to persuade Zuma comes after the ANC’s top six officials, who include President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza, yesterday told the party’s national executive committee (NEC) that they would be meeting Zuma to discuss the legal and political implications of his defiance of a ruling from SA’s highest court.
This was confirmed yesterday by ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe, who said the top six had apprised the NEC about their decision to meet the defiant former head of state.
Sources said the NEC unanimously agreed with the top six’s decision to approach Zuma.
“Officials are dealing with the matter themselves and again confirmed in this ongoing NEC that they will be meeting the former president,” said Mabe.
Another person at the NEC meeting said the aim was also to persuade Zuma to comply with an ANC resolution that its members should support the work of the commission.
It was not clear yesterday when the meeting would take place, but the Ramaphosaled top six are in a race against time as Zuma is scheduled to appear before the commission for this entire week to answer several allegations of state capture, starting tomorrow.
Zuma announced a fortnight ago that he would disobey a Constitutional Court ruling ordering him to appear before the Zondo commission and respond to its questions, citing what he said was its bias and the deputy chief justice’s decision to turn down his refusal request.
Zuma was in a fighting mood yesterday in Pietermaritzburg during the funeral of the former deputy speaker of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature, Meshack Radebe.
The former president used his address at the funeral to complain that he was being “chased around like an antelope”.
Zuma kicked off his speech with struggle song, “Senzeni na? Sono sethu, ubumnyama.” (What have we done? Our only sin is being black.)
He then turned to another tune he resorts to in difficult times, “Ngimanxebanxeba nginje yizinsizwa engakhula nazo” (I am wounded like this, it is because of the men I grew up with), which he was in the habit of
belting out at the Pietermaritzburg high court during his corruption trial.
Zuma described Radebe as a brave comrade whose loyalty could not be doubted. Radebe shot to fame in the 1990s for brokering peace between the ANC and IFP.
“One of the things that uBhungane [Radebe’s clan name] dedicated his life to was the ending of the black-on-black violence where the oppressors knew that the way to protect themselves was to pit black people against each other.
“If I asked anyone why we were fighting, no-one will give me an answer. If you were ANC and the other IFP, what was the problem? No-one can tell you.
“This story is too long, I cannot tell the full story. Maybe one day when they stop chasing me like a springbok, I will get a chance to sit down and really go into detail and it may be read by my great-grandchildren.
“This is where I will tell the story of where it all went wrong.
“I will detail what the oppressor did to pit us against one another.
“This they did because the liberation for freedom was near and they did not want that to happen.
“They did what they usually do to all the nation when they arrived from Europe, which is to pit people against one another so that people do not come together and fight them. During the black-on-black violence we were fuming with anger.”
Zuma was joined at the funeral by ANC leader and health minister Zweli Mkhize.
Zuma has been implicated by more than 30 witnesses in various forms of state capture, including the siphoning off of State Security Agency funds, leaking confidential cabinet matters to the Gupta family and discussing cabinet appointments with them.
The Zondo commission wants to question him on these matters, among others.
Sources at the commission have indicated that if Zuma does not appear, Zondo will be left with no choice but to refer the matter to the National Prosecuting Authority for Zuma’s possible arrest on a charge of contempt of court.
“Whether he comes or not, the date has not changed and of course he said he will not come … the ConCourt judgment will strengthen the commission’s responsibility to register [his nonappearance] as a criminal charge,” said a source familiar with the commission’s
“But it will depend on the NPA how capacitated and enthusiastic they are to pursue a criminal charge.
“The Commissions Act is quite clear that it is a criminal offence to defy the summons of the commission.”
The commission’s spokesperson, Reverend Mbuyiselo Stemela, said should Zuma not appear before the commission tomorrow, it will immediately announce what action will be taken against him.
“In terms of one of the summonses issued by the commission Mr Zuma is required to appear before the commission from the 15th to the 19th February 2021. As already indicated, the order of the Constitutional Court compels Mr Zuma to comply with that summons by appearing before the commission and answering questions that may be put to him.
“Should Mr Zuma carry out his decision not to appear before the commission on 15 February 2021 and, therefore, act in breach of the summons and in contempt of the order of the Constitutional Court, the commission
will announce on that day what further action it will take in regard to such conduct,” said Stemela.
In papers filed during its application to the ConCourt to compel Zuma to appear before it, the commission cited specific issues it wants Zuma to respond to. These include:
• Themba Maseko’s allegations that in or about September/October 2010, Zuma had a telephonic conversation with him in which Zuma required him to accede to the demands from the Guptas for government advertising to be placed with their media company.
• Barbara Hogan’s allegations that in and around 2009, Zuma unlawfully sought to interfere in the management of Eskom by pressuring her to reinstate Jacob Maroga as the CEO of Eskom, after the Eskom board had unanimously decided not to do so; and that Zuma unlawfully sought to interfere in the management of Transnet by insisting on the appointment of Siyabonga Gama as CEO.
• That during November 2011 to December 2015, Zuma initiated and co-ordinated the process to procure 9.6GW of nuclear energy from the Russian Federation without ensuring the conclusion of prior feasibility studies and finance modelling to ensure affordability.
• That in or around April 2014, Zuma unlawfully sought to execute or cause to be executed the Petronas transaction without due diligence being conducted, exposing the National Treasury to financial risk in the amount of R18.6bn.
An arrest would bring ‘instability’ from Zuma’s supporters
• Nhlanhla Nene and Mcebisi Jonas’s allegations that Zuma unlawfully sought to pressure Nene, then the minister of finance, to sign a letter of agreement for the proposed nuclear build programme with the Russian Federation, and further agree to proceed with the nuclear build programme at a cabinet meeting in December 2015.
Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza, declined to comment this week when asked if his client would appear before the commission.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Vukile Mathabela, said the former president stands by his decision not to appear before the commission.
The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association, staunch Zuma supporters, this week descended on Zuma’s Nkandla homestead, saying 200 of its members would camp out at his home for as long as required to shield him from possible arrest.
MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus said yesterday that they would be staging rallies in Nkandla today and tomorrow in support of Zuma.
Niehaus insisted that there will be no Zuma at the commission when it meets tomorrow.
Niehaus said the MKMVA “agreed” with Zuma on his assertion that the Zondo commission was biased.
Niehaus said there would be “instability across the country” should Zuma be arrested, and “outcry from many of President Zuma’s supporters across the country”.