Former South African President Jacob Zuma failed to persuade the chairman of a judicial panel that’s probing graft during his tenure to step aside on the grounds that he wouldn’t act impartially.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo denied he had a close personal or professional relationship with Zuma, or that his conduct indicated that he was biased against the former president.
“The application for my recusal” is dismissed, Zondo said in a ruling delivered in Johannesburg on Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, who succeeded Zuma in February 2018, has estimated that more than R500 billion ($32 billion) disappeared from state coffers during Zuma’s nine-year rule. While Zuma denies any wrongdoing, he has persistently frustrated efforts to investigate the allegations.
At least 34 other witnesses who’ve testified before Zondo’s panel implicated the former president in the embezzlement of state funds. Zuma appeared before the panel last year, but withdrew from proceedings after his lawyers objected to the line of questioning and argued that he was being unfairly cross-examined. Zondo then subpoenaed him to testify.
Muzi Sikhakhane, Zuma’s lawyer, said his client would take the decision on review and would withdraw from the hearings.
“You have become a judge in the dispute that involves yourself,” he told Zondo.
Paul Pretorius, the head of the panel’s legal team, said proceedings should continue notwithstanding a review, and Zuma would be in violation of his summons if he unilaterally withdrew.
Zondo is due to rule on that issue after a short adjournment.