Former president Jacob Zuma has backtracked on his decision to withdraw from the state capture commission of inquiry.
Following drawn-out proceedings on Friday, Zuma agreed to return to testify on a date which has not yet been determined – after initially saying he would withdraw from the proceedings.
Earlier on Friday, commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, stood firm after Zuma’s legal representative announced that he would no longer take part.
Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, SC, told Zondo: “Chair, we are here today to tell you that we will take no further part in these proceedings. That’s what we have come here to tell you.”
He said a crisis had been created because of a lack of clarity from the commission’s legal team. Sikhakhane said from the beginning of his appearance, Zuma was treated as an accused.
“Everyone who came had a grievance against him… He [was] a head of state, we said to you chair, our client sat waiting to be treated just like you treated Mr [Pravin] Gordhan, just like you treated Mr [Nhlanhla] Nene,” Sikhakhane argued.
He said witnesses should be accorded the same respect from the beginning.
He also told Zondo that they received a letter from the commission on Wednesday, stating that Zuma was implicated in the testimony of former Bosasa chief operating officer Angelo Agrizzi. In the letter, the commission asked to meet with Zuma about the statements made against him.
“Chair, quite frankly, this is a joke. That a witness is called and placed here in terms of a particular regimen which has no rules…,” Sikhakhane said.
“He is going to be asked about Mr Agrizzi in terms of your invitation… it should have been the approach to each and every witness.
“This commission does not know who is guilty, it is trying to find out. Witnesses must have faith in our law and our judges.”
He also said that they would like to explore the option of approaching the courts.
Zondo expressed disappointment in the manner in which the commission’s legal team and Zuma’s lawyers ended their discussions on Thursday, without informing him of the end result.
He said when the commission adjourned on Wednesday, he expressed confidence that both teams would find common ground.
“I didn’t say that simply without any basis. I had a basis which gave me confidence that the two teams could find each other. Of course there was no guarantees,” he said.
He said no one was asked to compromise their own rights or obligations.
Zondo also said he had the power to summons the former president, but Zuma had promised to co-operate with the commission but, after he was given an assurance from Zuma’s legal team, there was no reason for a summons.
Zondo also said a letter was written to Zuma to ask for an undertaking that he would come to the commission. He said the decision to ask the former president to appear before the commission, “was my decision, and my decision alone.”
“I therefore don’t want Mr [Paul] 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.
“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 practicable, 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.”
Zondo met both legal teams on Friday afternoon and Zuma changed his mind and will continue to participate.