The chairperson of the commission of inquiry into state capture, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has lambasted a Business Day report which claimed that the commission had sent former president Jacob Zuma questions that he would be asked when he returns to the witness stand at the inquiry.
Zondo said the article in question had referred to the fact that prior to Zuma’s initial appearance, the former president had asked to be furnished with questions he would be asked when he took the witness stand and that Zondo had made the decision not to accede to this request.
The commission’s chair said the article further reported that the commission had sent Zuma’s lawyers an 11-page document with 80 questions.
“When you read the whole article, it certainly gives the impression that the commission has changed its decision on the question of whether Mr Zuma should be furnished questions before he appears before the commission,” Zondo said on Tuesday.
He also noted that the said article had been aggregated and reported on by another news publication.
“The fact of the matter is that the commission has not sent Mr Zuma’s lawyers any questions.
“There is a document which has 11 pages that was sent by Mr Paul Pretorius to counsel for Mr Zuma. That document contains areas of interest in the various affidavits that had been previously given to Mr Zuma as affidavits from which questions would arise,” Zondo said.
He said the document is in accordance with the agreement reached between the commission’s legal team and Zuma’s counsel on July 19, which was the last day of Zuma’s appearance before the commission.
Zondo said those terms of agreement were publicly announced by him and that counsel for Zuma and the head of the commission’s legal team were asked to confirm them.
“They stood up here in public and confirmed that those were the terms of the agreement,” Zondo said.
Zondo said those who heard those terms of agreement and those who wished to obtain a recording of when he made the announcement “will know that there was nothing to say Mr Zuma will be sent questions”.
On July 19, after proceedings at the commission had adjourned, some TV stations reported that the commission was now going to send the former president questions, while other news channels questioned why this had not been done when Zuma had requested for the questions ahead of his initial appearance, Zondo said.
He said that either on the same day or the next, the commission issued a media statement to clarify those terms of agreement, which did not include giving Zuma questions. Zondo said some TV stations corrected their reporting.
“One would have thought that with that background it would have been clear that the commission still stood on the position that the former president would not be given questions in advance,” Zondo said.
He said once he was made aware of the Business Day article, he asked Pretorius to give him the document in question and that after perusing it he did not find any questions in the document in question, just an indication of the areas in various affidavits or incidents or events of interest to the commission’s legal team.
“I thought it important to set the record straight because I don’t know why it said that we have sent questions to Mr Zuma,” Zondo said.
He said the document Pretorius had sent to Zuma’s counsel would be publicly released either today or tomorrow.
Zondo said he did not know if another 11-page document was manufactured and given to the media.
“We appeal to the media to please just check their facts and to be fair to everybody, including the commission,” Zondo said.
The media’s failure to fact check properly or the media’s reporting that may not be clear to readers may give rise to all kinds of suspicions which would adversely impact the media, Zondo said, which the industry did not need as it played a critical role with regards to reporting.
“So we just ask that we are treated fairly as the commission just like we say everybody should be treated fairly.”
Zuma’s son Duduzane is back on the witness stand. Watch live courtesy of the SABC: