JOHANNESBURG: Former South African president Jacob Zuma has been issued with legal summons to appear before an inquiry commission probing corruption charges, including the veteran politician’s alleged role in assisting the controversial Indian-origin Gupta family in looting billions of rands from the state-owned entities.
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo said Zuma would be required to appear from November 16-20, adding that if the former president wished to present his evidence virtually rather than in person, it would be permitted.
Zuma, 78, has evaded appearing before the state capture inquiry, complaining about his illness with controversial doctors’ letters, as well as claims that he needed time to prepare for the separate court cases where he is facing corruption charges.
Zuma’s supporters have also called for Zondo to recuse himself alleging that Zuma would not get a fair hearing from him.
Clearly irritated by the frequent delays from Zuma’s legal team, Zondo gave the dates for the former president’s appearance on Friday but added that he could request an extension if he needed more time to prepare.
He said Zuma could not refuse to appear before the commission, because if he refuted the allegations made against him, he was being given the opportunity to do so.
Zuma has been implicated in state capture by 34 witnesses before the commission so far, much of it during his nine years in office before he was forced to step down in February 2018 by his own African National Congress to be replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa, who was subsequently elected President in national polls.
Among the issues being ventilated at the commission is Zuma’s alleged role in assisting the three Gupta brothers in looting billions of rands from state entities.
The Gupta family is now in self-imposed exile in Dubai, with extradition negotiations continuing between South Africa and the Middle Eastern state.
There have also been claims by a number of people, including former members of Parliament, that the Guptas influenced Zuma in his appointment of ministers, some of them claiming that they first heard about their proposed promotions from the Guptas even before Zuma approached them.
Originally from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, the Gupta family amassed a fortune in IT, media and mining industries over the past two decades in South Africa, allegedly through their closeness to Zuma.
The three brothers, Atul, Rajesh and Ajay, moved to South Africa in 1993 from India, just as white-minority rule was ending.
They are known friends of Zuma – and his son, daughter and one of the president’s wives reportedly worked for the family’s firms.
Zuma has also previously come under fire for delaying a number of court cases against him for over a decade with a range of delaying tactics, including changing his legal team midstream in hearings.