JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Lawyers for South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma, who was compelled to appear before a judicial inquiry into corruption, accused the judge of being biased and said he should recuse himself.
Zuma, who was removed as president in 2018, a year before his second term was due to end, is facing multiple investigations for corruption, including a trial relating to a $2 billion arms deal before he took office in 2009.
The former president sat with his legal team while his lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane told the head of the inquiry, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that some of his comments during the course of the proceedings made his impartiality doubtful.
“Your comments may have enforced in his (Zuma’s) mind, reasonably so, that this forum is an extension of the narrative about him that everything wrong in South Africa is attributable to him,” said Sikhakhane. Sikhakhane did not specify what comments Zuma’s team objected to.
In an affidavit filed last week and made public on Monday, Zuma said: “There is a general acceptance of testimony of witnesses willing to implicate me”. He also said he had a personal relationship with Zondo, which he did not explain further.
Responding to the affidavit during Monday’s hearing, Judge Zondo did not directly address the accusation that he was biased, and said any suggestion he had a personal friendship with Zuma was “inaccurate”.
(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Peter Graff)