South Africa’s embattled former president Jacob Zuma on Wednesday hit out at the judicial commission probing state corruption during his nine-year tenure, labelling the graft panel head prejudiced against him.
The statement issued by the Jacob Zuma foundation came days after the commission — chaired by the deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo — set “non-negotiable” dates for the ex-leader in a televised media briefing demanding Zuma testify in November after another no-show this week.
Zuma, 78, was expected to testify this week after he was reportedly too ill to appear for a second round of questioning in January.
His legal team reportedly stated that the former leader was unable to attend because of health risks associated with travel and their client was “busy” preparing for a separate graft trial in January.
His foundation on Wednesday said Zondo’s “attacks on President Zuma and his legal representatives were unjustified and prejudicial”, calling on Zondo to not let his “personal issues with President Zuma to blind his judgement”.
The foundation said the televised demands for Zuma to appear before the commission insinuated that President Zuma or his lawyers had defied the commission and its chair.
It expressed “disappointment with the Chairperson’s obsession President Zuma”, adding that no other witnesses had inspired the chairperson to call a media briefing “merely to castigate them”.
For over two years, the commission has heard testimony from ministers, ex-ministers, government officials, lawmakers and business executives with many giving damning evidence against Zuma, portraying his tenure as a time of mass looting of state assets.
The ex-president testified briefly in July and rejected any wrongdoing.
He then withdrew from giving testimony complaining that he had been “treated as someone who was accused” but later agreed to testify at a future date.
Zuma was forced to resign in February 2018 over graft scandals centred around an Indian migrant business family, the Guptas, who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.
His successor President Cyril Ramaphosa has vowed to tackle corruption in South Africa, which has been led by the African National Congress party since Nelson Mandela came to power in 1994 after the end of apartheid.