The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture has told former President Jacob Zuma’s lawyers it urgently needs him to agree within five weeks to testify. But, notes a Business Day report, Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Mantsha, said his client continued to question the impartiality of the inquiry, while also denying that the former President is not co-operating with its investigation.

The report notes Zuma has repeatedly questioned whether state capture exists. The inquiry, led by Deputy Judge President Raymond Zondo, has the power to compel Zuma to testify through the use of a subpoena but has instead chosen to ‘invite’ him to ‘give his side of the story’ to the evidence led thus far, in hearings scheduled for 15 to 19 July.

Mantsha has, however, asked acting inquiry secretary Peter Pedlar to explain under which of the inquiry’s rules Zuma is being asked to testify. He has also reiterated that the former President believed that the inquiry had become ‘politicised’.

Zuma maintains there is ‘not one shred of evidence’ that implicates him in corruption or wrongdoing. Mantsha said suggestions that Zuma was unwilling to co-operate were ‘unfounded’.

We find it unfair that the commission expects our client, having been mentioned by so many of its carefully chosen witnesses, to simply present himself without being appraised of the specific questions and issues in respect of which you require him to answer to the commission. For our client to fully and meaningfully assist the commission, he would need to be appraised of the specific areas and questions in respect of which the commission seeks his assistance.

It is unclear if the commission will accede to Zuma’s demands or simply compel him via a subpoena, notes the report.

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Pedlar told Mantsha it was inevitable that Zuma would be specifically referenced in the course of the inquiry’s work, and mentioned by Zondo. ‘We point out that the terms of reference of this commission which your client signed when he was still President single out certain people for special mention. Those people include your client. Furthermore, a number of witnesses have mentioned your client. Also, your client was the head of state during either the years or some of the years when it is alleged that the state was captured,' Pedlar is quoted as saying in a report in The Herald.

He added: 'It is also not clear to the chairperson what the basis is for your client’s view that, because the chairperson may have mentioned your client’s name in regard to the work of the commission, your client should characterise that as "this politicisation of a judicial process" and find it "unfortunate and deeply disturbing".’

Full report in The Herald (subscription needed)