Legal teams at the state capture commission of inquiry butted heads again on Wednesday over questions to South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma, with legal head advocate Paul Pretorius complaining that he felt controlled in his questioning of the former president.
Before starting with ex-public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan’s evidence, Pretorius wanted to ask Zuma further on the sacking of former government spin doctor Themba Maseko for not bowing to the fugitive Gupta family’s demands. He was interjected by Zuma’s advocate Muzi Sikhakhane for reverting to Maseko’s testimony. Pretorius sounded irritable.
“I do not have a problem with concluding questions and move on to next testimony, what I do find disturbing is the way control is exercised in which legal team asks questions to Mr Zuma,” said Pretorius.
Sikhakhane complained that Pretorius was asking questions to and fro and that there needed to be a structure to the questioning.
“I think it’s a procedural issue,” said Sikhakhane.
Commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo then set down rules of procedure, saying everyone was there to do their job at the commission, including himself, and reminded both legal teams what their roles were as per rules of the commission. Zondo said he wouldn’t want to put on a strict rule on how to proceed and that the process was manageable as long as Zuma was able to answer questions posed by Pretorius.
“I do not see anything they (Zuma’s legal team) said suggesting that Zuma shouldn’t be asked questions aimed at establishing the truth. The commission legal team is free to do the job. On [the] issue raised by Sikhakhane, my take is that he understands the attitude taken by the chairperson.”
Pretorius proceeded to ask Zuma questions on Hogan’s damning testimony in which she said the Polokwane ANC conference of 2007, where Zuma was elected president, resulted in a highly factionalised and divided ANC. She said those loyal and close to the leadership were seemingly rewarded with positions in government and state-owned enterprises.
Zuma dismissed her testimony on deployment by the ANC as “her own views and opinion”.
He said the ANC deployment committee did not appoint anyone, but made recommendations to ministers on who to place in which position.
“It is not true that after Polokwane people were entrenched in [their] own sides. My problem is that this commission might get into some happenings in the ANC which are not accurate because we will end up discussing internal ANC politics. For example, in the ANC deployment committee, one cannot have almost everybody coming from every faction, those people [deployment committee] are appointed by structures,” he said.
Zuma explained that aside from the ANC committee, Cabinet had its own committee that looked into the suitability of candidates.
“You cannot say the NEC [ANC national executive committee] is a faction… that is why I am saying she is expressing her own views, she was part of an NEC. I was trying to run away from this because she is expressing her own views. It’s not true. Just because someone scores high, and one says ‘sorry, he is not in my faction [he can’t be appointed]. It is not true. A large cabinet committee discusses such candidates too where the president and the deputy president sit in that cabinet committee looking into capabilities of candidates… at times Cabinet might say we not accepting this candidate… you do not pick and choose, the process is thorough.”
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