The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture is braced for former president Jacob Zuma’s appearance which it anticipates will draw hundreds of his supporters.
Zuma is expected to give evidence before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — this week. In a statement released on the weekend, the commission said it had come to its attention that it there “may be large crowds of people who want to attend the hearings”.
Only the first 200 people will be allowed inside the venue on a first come first serve basis, the statement said.
According to a City Press report, the commission is expecting 5 000 Zuma supporters to show up at the hearing.
In recent months the Zondo commission has failed to draw members of the public to its venue, with members of the media making up the bulk of its audience.
The commission has set down the whole week for the hearing of Zuma’s evidence. Black First Land First, which has backed Zuma in the past, has already announced its commitment “continue to stand with President Zuma when he appears before the Zondo commission”.
Members of the movement-cum-political party also attended the hearing of Gupta-linked business person Mzwanele Manyi’s evidence in November last year.
Zuma’s highly-anticipated appearance follows a protracted back and forth between his legal team and the commission, which he appointed in January 2018 following a recommendation by former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s ‘State of Capture’ report and a court order directing him to comply.
The commission is now almost a year into its work, but Zuma has so far avoided showing face.
Zuma is reportedly the commission’s most implicated witness. In January Daily Maverick reported that the former president had been served with the highest number of notices that he had been implicated in individual statements.
In a letter sent to the commission dated May 31, the former president argued through his legal team that the commission has been designed to push a nefarious political agenda, and he accused the inquiry of singling him out “publicly and in an unprecedented way”.
In June the commission confirmed that it had been in talks with Zuma’s legal team since April, when it set down the July dates for the hearing of the former president’s evidence.
In a statement, the commission said Zuma had been asked to respond to the evidence of “certain identified witnesses”.
Those identified by the commission include former government spokesperson Themba Maseko, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi and his former adviser Mahlodi Muofhe, and former and present public enterprises ministers Barbara Hogan and Pravin Gordhan.
The commission added that it is “aware of certain views expressed or accusations made by Mr Zuma against the commission”.
According to the June statement, Zuma will likely be called to make another appearance before the commission later this year.