Did Zuma just get his way at the state capture commission?

South Africa - Durban - 21 May 2019 - Former President Jacob Zuma arriving with his bodyguards at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg today. He's facing charges of racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud relating to the 1999 arms deal.
Picture: MotshwarI Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

South Africa - Durban - 21 May 2019 - Former President Jacob Zuma arriving with his bodyguards at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg today. He's facing charges of racketeering, corruption, money laundering and fraud relating to the 1999 arms deal. Picture: MotshwarI Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

The former president’s threats to pull out may have resulted in his legal team scoring a victory.

Former president Jacob Zuma’s legal team announced on Friday that he would no longer participate at the commission of inquiry into state capture following a clash between his defence team and the commission’s legal team.

Soon, however, it was announced that Zuma would indeed be back, which may suggest that moves were made to placate his legal team.

Zuma’s legal counsel, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, told Deputy Chief Justice Ray Zondo that Zuma “will take no further part” at the inquiry.

Sikhakhane argued that Zuma was being treated like the accused in a trial. He raised concerns on how the commission had approached Zuma and the manner in which he was being treated during proceedings.

The commission adjourned so that Zuma’s legal team and that of the inquiry could meet with Zondo to determine a way forward.

The inquiry resumed and Zondo announced Zuma was more than willing to cooperate and that he would return to the commission at a time that would be agreed on.

Zondo said the commission’s legal team would now indicate to Zuma’s legal counsel what the commission’s areas of interest were in each witness’ statement it would like the former president to give evidence on.

The decision, which may allow Zuma to pre-plan his responses, comes after resistance from the commission to grant Zuma questions, something his legal council had previously asked for.

Zondo, however, has made it clear that it was his decision to call Zuma to the commission and to refuse to allow him questions. This was not well-received by Zuma’s legal team, which had insisted that he be furnished in advance with the questions that he would be asked on the witness stand.

The commission will again request Zuma’s presence at a later stage, although, this time, Zuma will have an indication of what to expect. He will be expected to answer specific questions on the statements, affidavits, and certain witnesses that had implicated him.

These witnesses include former chief executive at the Government Communications Information Systems Themba Maseko, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, former public enterprises minister Barbra Hogan, former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramathlodi, Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula, among others.

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