Former President Jacob Zuma’s implication that State Capture Commission of Inquiry chairperson Judge Raymond Zondo was at best forgetful – at worst economical with the truth – when he claimed he and Zuma were acquaintances and not friends has caused another delay in the Deputy Chief Justice’s ruling on whether or not he will recuse himself from the hearing while the former President gives his testimony.

He is now expected to deliver that judgment this morning.

In a new affidavit presented to the commission yesterday, Zuma points out that he in fact saw the judge after he was appointed to chair the inquiry in 2018. Zondo had said on Monday that he had not been to Zuma’s presidential office nor did he go to his official residence for a one-on-one meeting while he was President, notes a Daily Maverick report.

In his new affidavit, Zuma states: ‘The improbability of this assertion by the chairperson is obvious. … soon after the chairperson had been selected by the Chief Justice (to preside over the commission), I held a briefing meeting with him at the official residence in Durban’.

Zuma said: ‘I dispute that we were never friends … In fact, in our discussion at my residence in Forest Town (to which I have referred), we discussed, among other things, how our friendship, if not managed properly, could jeopardise his judicial ambitions or rise within the ranks of the judiciary.’

This discussion took place after Zondo had been appointed to the Bench, said Zuma, who added that the judge had been coy about this detail as it reveals they are closer than mere acquaintances.

Zondo did not detail what his discussions with Zuma were about when they met, notes the DM report, and suggested that these were bump-into-each-other meetings at the annual opening of Parliament or other social occasions.

But Zuma’s affidavit says the judge and he had several tête-á-têtes at his Forest Town, Johannesburg, home, both while he was in office and when he was dismissed as Deputy President and out of office between 2005 and 2007.

‘I dispute the chairperson’s assertions that the Forest Town meeting happened only during the time when I was no longer in government. My meeting(s) with him in Forest Town was during my tenure as the Deputy President … in fact, we met several times in my residence at Forest Town. It was our meeting place.’

Zuma also objected to Zondo’s statement that the former President did not have influence over his judicial career because he was ‘only’ a provincial MEC when the judge was appointed to the Bench. In fact, he said, then-president Nelson Mandela had consulted the ANC on a wide range of issues and Zuma was an ANC national chairperson at the time and also the provincial chairperson of the ANC in KZN.

‘Although the chairperson seeks to diminish my role at the time, I was part of serious discussions in the country. One of the critical challenges at the time was that while there was a need to transform the judiciary, there was a shortage of black legal practitioners who could ascend to the Bench. Accordingly, his attempt to communicate that I was insignificant in the national political arena is untrue.’

Zondo was appointed as a judge of the Labour Court in 1997 and was appointed Deputy Chief Justice in 2017 by Zuma, acting on the recommendation of the JSC.

‘The chairperson (Zondo) is being less than candid in his recollection of facts in the statement (he read on Monday),’ said Zuma.

Full Daily Maverick report