South African ex-president Jacob Zuma (78) again did not appear on Monday before the committee of inquiry into the widespread corruption in the nine years he was in power. Zuma thus ignores a decision of the South African court.
In January, the Constitutional Court, South Africa’s highest court, ruled that Zuma should appear before the committee. The Court thus deprived him of his right to remain silent. Still, Zuma’s lawyers warned again on Monday that their client “would not appear before the committee,” even though he has been summoned to do so all week.
Since the committee was set up in 2018, the former head of state has struggled to avoid having to testify. For example, he lodged an appeal several times and invoked his right to remain silent.
For months now, Zuma has been demanding a challenge from the chairman of the committee, Judge Raymond Zondo, for being biased. Zondo refused to declare himself incompetent, and Zuma asked for that decision to be revised.
If the ex-president were to appear before committee now, “that would undermine and invalidate the question of reviewing the decision to declare himself unauthorized,” the lawyers said in their letter.
A day earlier, the ANC, the party that has held power since the first free elections in 1994, had called on its members to participate in the committee. Zuma has only testified before the committee once, in July 2019, but then slammed the door behind him.
He complained that he was being treated as an “accused” and not as a witness. He appeared again in November 2020 but said nothing.
Zuma was forced to resign as president in a scandal atmosphere. His successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, promised to stamp out corruption.
Dozens of ministers, ex-ministers, MPs, and senior officials had already testified before the committee and hung dirty laundry from the Zuma era outside.