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Pretorius’ grilling of Zuma at commission perfectly legal – expert Pretorius’ grilling of Zuma at commission perfectly legal – expert

Bronze medal Reporter william Posted 20 Jul 2019 Read More News and Blogs
Pretorius’ grilling of Zuma at commission perfectly legal – expert

The line of questioning was ‘perfectly within the law’ and in fact, Zuma could get into trouble if he walks out or refuses to answer questions.

There was nothing improper or illegal about Commission of Inquiry into State Capture evidence leader Paul Pretorius being tough in questioning Jacob Zuma about his knowledge of malfeasance and graft that took place during his tenure as head of state, according to a public law expert.

Commenting on objections lodged this week to Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo by Zuma and his legal team about “being cross-examined” instead of “being led” – something that resulted in a heated debate and the hearings being adjourned on Wednesday afternoon until today – University of Cape Town lecturer Dr Phindile Ntliziywana yesterday said the line of questioning was “perfectly within the law”.

Zondo adjourned the hearings after persistent objections by Zuma and his legal team, who were unhappy about Pretorius’ line of questioning. The adjournment was to allow for a meeting of the two legal teams to thrash out differences in the application of the law on quizzing witnesses appearing before the commission.

While South African ambassador to the Netherlands Bruce Koloane and Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula have been among several witnesses to feel the heat during questioning at the commission, Zuma is the first to complain about the intensity of the grilling – describing it as “unfair”.

Ntliziywana, who has closely followed proceedings at the commission, said: “Leading evidence means you give a witness an opportunity to provide evidence and your role is to guide the witness.

“Your way of questioning is leading the witness. In this instance, you will have met with the witness beforehand and know more or less what evidence they will provide.

“In this instance, we are referring to those witnesses that are not implicated. For those who are implicated, like Mr Zuma, it is possible they could be probed in a cross-examination manner, to verify the veracity of the evidence that implicates them – perfectly within the law.”

Responding to threats by Zuma’s instructing attorney, Dan Mantsha, who warned that failure by Pretorius to tone down the line of questioning could lead to Zuma abandoning his testimony at the commission, Ntliziywana said the Commissions Act could see Zuma facing even worse trouble.

Ntliziywana said grounds for a fine/imprisonment could arise if any person:

  • Summoned to attend and give evidence, or produce any book, document or object before a commission, failed doing so without sufficient cause:
  • Failed to attend commission proceedings at the time and place specified in the summons;
  • Failed to remain in attendance until the conclusion of the inquiry, or until he is excused by the commission chairperson;
  • Refused to be sworn or to make affirmation as a witness after being required by the commission chairperson to do so; or
  • Failed to answer fully and satisfactorily any question lawfully put to him or her.

Zuma, the master of delay

From requesting Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo for a moment to wash his hands, asking for documents with a bigger font, complaining about suffering from flu and constantly clearing his throat before answering questions – Jacob Zuma’s ability to delay seemingly knows no bounds.

Previous attempts at delaying legal proceedings in the past have included:

  • Missing his own deadline on whether charges of corruption against him should be reinstated or not. Zuma’s lawyers were supposed to file a review of former National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Shaun Abrahams’ decision to pursue the corruption case against Zuma;
  • Launched a bid for leave to appeal paying the estimated R10 million personal costs of a court order granted against him;
  • Several delaying tactics to avoid implementing the public protector’s State of Capture remedial action;
  • Multiple challenges to review the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to prosecute him; and
  • Lodging an application to review the decision immediately after the Hawks had served him and co-accused, French arms company Thint, with a summons to appear at the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban on April 6.

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