South Africa's Zuma will not participate further in graft inquiry- lawyer

Friday July 19 2019

Former South African president Jacob Zuma

Former South African president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that is probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned companies in Johannesburg, on July 19, 2019. PHOTO | MIKE HUTCHINGS | AFP 

PETER DUBE
By PETER DUBE
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Former South Africa President Jacob Zuma has pulled out of the ongoing state capture inquiry and threatened to take legal action over the way he has been treated.

“Chair, we are here today to say we will take no further part in these proceedings,” Zuma's lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane told the inquiry on Friday.

Mr Sikhakhane said Zuma had been subject to “relentless cross-examination” and accused the commission of bringing in his client under false pretence.

“I have a view that my client was brought in here under false pretences and I need him to make up his mind if he wants to be cross-examined. Now it’s clear to me he is being cross-examined on what people say,” said Sikhakhane.

Mr Zuma is at the centre of the commission that seeks to look into whether government officials and business-people linked to him unduly benefited from government contracts and influenced decisions under his rule.

On Wednesday, a judge adjourned until Friday the inquiry after Zuma's lawyers said he was being questioned unfairly.

Mr Zuma’s main objection is the commission’s evidence leader Paul Pretorius’ line of questioning.

His lawyers expressed concerns when he was quizzed on allegations by former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan that he, in 2009, insisted on the appointment of Siyabonga Gama as Transnet chief executive. Transnet is a large rail, port and pipeline parastatal.

The commission also asked the former South African leader questions about the normal procedure in the appointment of executives at state-owned entities.
Mr Zuma said some of the questions fielded to him were about processes that did not fall under his office as president.

“I was being made to go through the details that are the details of the officials and expected to remember every other detail on work that is generally done by director-generals and officials. I am not an officer or Cabinet secretary.

“The manner in which I am being asked questions on the details that I can’t even remember properly because I was not working on those details,” Mr Zuma said.

Following Mr Zuma’s withdrawal from the proceedings, Justice Zondo said that no one was being asked to compromise their own rights and obligations.
Justice Zondo repeated that the reason for calling the former South African leader before the commission was his personal decision.

“I, therefore, do not want Mr Pretorius or the commission’s legal team to be criticised for that decision. I made it alone. I believe it was a correct decision and still believe it was a correct decision.”

He added that it is he who ultimately has to make findings based on testimonies submitted by witnesses on corruption.

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