Zuma’s lawyer argues Zondo has been putting words in witnesses’ mouths

The former president is applying for Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo to recuse himself from chairing the state capture inquiry, claiming that the commission’s chairperson is biased.

Former President Jacob Zuma (far right) arrives at the state capture commission of inquiry in Johannesburg on 16 November 2020. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Jacob Zuma’s lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane, on Monday said Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo had been putting words in the mouths of witnesses to implicate Zuma at the state capture commission of inquiry.

Zuma is applying for Zondo to recuse himself from chairing the inquiry, claiming that the commission’s chairperson is biased.

Sikhakhane argued that Zondo crossed the line with his comments and fed the narrative that Zuma messed up the country.

ALSO READ: Zondo denies any personal relationship with Zuma

He accused the commission of selecting witnesses that agree with the narrative that the former president was responsible for all state capture.

Sikhakhane said Zuma’s application was not intended to degrade his integrity but argued that Zondo is human and he could be unaware of his bias.

“You are a very powerful man sitting there chair,” Sikhakhane said.

“Once you put a proposition and a witness assumes the chairperson is with them, they will latch onto your proposition. I’m saying these comments that are put as propositions, open the risk of witnesses who take chances sent as political missiles that are offshoots of a particular agenda,” he argued.

Sikhakhane gave an example of the testimony of former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan, who he said latched onto Zondo’s comments.

“The problem with putting a proposition is that it’s not volunteered by the witness, its extracted from the witness by the chairperson,” he said.

The commission was expected to make its ruling later on Monday.

At the same time, Sikhakhane said Zondo’s comments were frightening.

Sikhakhane said his client’s application sought to persuade Zondo to look at his comments and see how they were interpreted both legally and in listeners’ minds.

“Those comments that are made flippantly without self-restraint have the same effect. So, a judge who decides to go either extreme may be immature because… what is required are comments that seek to understand, to intellectually engage,” he argued.

Zondo said Zuma’s claim that they agreed to keep their distance to avoid a perception that the former president was instrumental in his rise was not true.

“Mr Zuma’s statement that we are friends is not accurate. He has never been to any of the homes that we have lived in. He met my wife in Parliament or government. 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 said.

He added: “This had to be so because we would normally interact when we met at the opening of Parliament or other government or state functions.”

Meanwhile, state capture commission evidence leader, Advocate Paul Pretorius, said Zuma’s lawyers had failed to show that Zondo is biased or that he had pre-judged anything.

Pretorius said there was no case for the deputy chief justice to recuse himself.

WATCH: Zondo hears Zuma arguments for recusal from state capture inquiry

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