Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo has denied that he is or has ever been friends with Jacob Zuma, with the former president claiming that there’s a conflict of interest in his application for Zondo to recuse himself.
Zuma’s lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane, has said that Zondo’s State Capture Inquiry has prejudged Zuma as “the bad guy” and that Zondo had “reasonable apprehension of bias”, as exemplified in the testimony of “sweetheart witnesses”, reports The Mail & Guardian. Zuma has been refusing to appear before the Commission unless Zondo recuses himself from the case due to their personal friendship. He stated in a sworn affidavit that he recalls a discussion where they discussed whether their “personal relationship” would “jeopardise” his judicial career.
However, in a statement delivered by Zondo on Monday, he provided details on their personal relationship, arguing that the former president had no influence on his career as a judge and that their relationship stretched back to the 1990s when Zondo worked in a private practice.
“After my appointment as a judge in 1997 my interactions with Mr Zuma were of a personal nature and largely occurred when we met in government functions,” he said. “Our personal relationship has been a cordial and pleasant one over the years but did not, generally speaking, involve discussions of any serious matters.”
Zondo went on to say that Zuma was never invited to any personal gatherings over the years that they’ve known each other.
“Although Mr Zuma and I have a cordial relationship … Mr Zuma’s statement that we are friends is not accurate. In this regard I highlight the following:
“Mr Zuma has never been to any of the houses in which I have lived with my family since the early 1990s and I’ve never invited him. … He has also never been to any of the places in Gauteng in which I have lived over the past 23 or 24 years since my appointment as a judge in 1997,” Zondo said.
“… I have never invited Mr Zuma to any private functions, including my birthdays, since I met him in the early 1990s. He has also never invited me to any of his birthday parties …
“Mr Zuma does not get told when there is a death in my family. As a result he has never attended any of the family funerals we have had since I got to know him, even though since the early 1990s to date I have lost four siblings and my mother. I have never attended a funeral of any member of the Zuma family.”
Sikhakhane also asserted that Deputy Chief Justice Zondo’s questioning of former public enterprises minister Barabra Hogan over Zuma’s alleged support of former Eskom chief executive Jacob Maroga was a move to paint Zuma as “the bad guy” in the framing of the State Capture Inquiry.
At present, there is little clarity as to whether Zondo will be ruling on the recusal application, but the inquiry will continue, despite Zuma’s insistence that he will “exercise [his] right to say nothing” if Zondo doesn’t recuse himself.