Zuma vows never to appear before S.Africa's anti-graft panel

Johannesburg (AFP) –


South Africa's beleaguered ex-president Jacob Zuma vowed Monday to not appear before a judicial panel probing corruption during his nine-year tenure, defying a court order compelling him to testify.

Zuma, 78, has played cat-and-mouse with the commission since it was set up in 2018 to investigate looting of state coffers during his rule.

He accuses the commission of bias and has demanded that its chair, deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, recuse himself from the anti-graft inquiry.

However, Zondo has dismissed the calls, saying Zuma failed to make a case that he was being unfair.

The commission "can expect no further cooperation from me in any of their processes going forward," Zuma said in a statement.

Zuma, while highlighting his anti-apartheid exploits, said he was ready for "the law to take its course" and did not fear being arrested, convicted or incarcerated.

"The wrath visited upon me as an individual knows no bounds," said Zuma, adding that his children and associates had also been "targeted and harassed" as their bank accounts were closed.

South Africa's top court on Thursday ordered him to appear before the Zondo commission, ruling that he had no right to remain silent during the proceedings.

But Zuma argued that court decision rendered him completely defenceless.

"It is clear that the laws of this country are politicised even at the highest court in land," Zuma said.

He said he "never imagined that there would come a time when a democratic government in South Africa... would behave exactly like the apartheid government in creating legal processes designed to target specific individuals in society".

Zuma, who came to power in 2009, was forced to resign in 2018 over graft scandals involving an Indian business family, the Guptas -- who won lucrative contracts with state companies and were allegedly even able to choose cabinet ministers.

He set up the commission shortly before his ouster and only testified before it once in July 2019, but staged a walkout days later.

Since then, Zuma has not testified again, citing health concerns or preparation for another corruption case related to a 1990s arms deal which will resume this month.