A former President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has been dragged before a commission of inquiry looking into serious allegations of corruption leveled against the controversial 78-year-old who was the country’s president between 2009 and 2018.
But on Monday, Zuma, through attorney Muzi Sikhakhane, sought to challenge the propriety of commission chairman, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, presiding over proceedings. According to the former president’s lawyer, Zondo was already biased against Zuma.
The commission was not constituted with prosecutorial powers, however, bodies that can prosecute can fall on the commission’s findings. This may be the reason why Zuma’s corner holds reservations over how the Zondo has allowed witnesses whose accounts have implicated the former president in corrupt activities.
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Witnesses before the commission have included former cabinet ministers and lawmakers.
Zuma has been accused of corrupt practices relating to the awarding of government contracts. He is also accused of ceding political influence to members of the Gupta family who have been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department over corrupt activities. Some have alleged that the Gupta family was even allowed to appoint ministers and skip due process in transactions with the government.
The former president reportedly refused to answer some questions on Monday leading the legal representative of the commission Paul Pistorius to say Zuma believes the inquiry is a “political conspiracy”.
Zuma’s woes have compounded since he resigned unceremoniously in 2018 due to these very allegations. In 2018, he was charged with 16 counts of fraud, racketeering and money laundering involving an arms deal from the late 1990s that cost $2.5 billion.
Earlier this year, a judge in Pietermaritzburg issued an arrest warrant for Zuma after he failed to appear in court to answer to said charges due to what he said was ill-health.
Political pressure is mounting on the current head of state, Cyril Ramaphosa, from Zuma loyalists in the African National Congress (ANC) who expect him to intervene in Zuma’s troubles.