Playing it safe: Former president Jacob Zuma is yet to respond under oath to any of the claims made against him. Picture: SUPPLIED
Playing it safe: Former president Jacob Zuma is yet to respond under oath to any of the claims made against him. Picture: SUPPLIED

Former president Jacob Zuma has chosen not to seek to cross-examine any of the witnesses who have so far testified at the state capture inquiry, in direct contrast to the Gupta family.

So does this mean Zuma admits the truth of the evidence against him?

Not at all, experts say.

While the Guptas say they have “objective evidence” they want to put forward to the Zondo commission, Zuma has opted to not seek to place his version of events on record through cross-examination as he does not believe that testimony implicates him in any criminal or ethical wrongdoing.

Legal insiders say Zuma’s stance should not be seen as an indication that he himself does not want to testify or face cross-examination, despite the fact that he has yet to respond under oath to any of the claims made against him.

Meanwhile, lawyer James Grant emphasises that unlike a criminal trial, the inquiry does not require Zuma to counter the evidence against him through cross-examination.

“Cross-examination [in an inquiry] is just damage control. In a court of law you must allow the witness to comment [on your version]. Here, there is no obligation to cross-examine, only the right.”

Grant says Zuma does risk the prospect of negative credibility findings being made against him because of his failure to cross-examine.

Attorney Ulrich Roux agrees. “The implication would essentially be that Zuma wouldn’t be able to test the witnesses’ versions and put their versions forward to the witnesses.

“This means the credibility of the witnesses won’t be challenged and the chairperson [deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo] could therefore place more weight on what the witnesses testify.”

Zuma’s lawyer, Daniel Lungisani Mantsha, wrote to the inquiry after Zuma was notified that he may be implicated by the evidence of former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor, current and former government communications heads Themba Maseko and Phumla Williams, and former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan.

Week three at the commission of inquiry into state capture. Here’s what happened.

“We have consulted our client and have considered the said statements in order to determine whether they implicate or may implicate our client in the violation of the relevant statutes of the Republic of South Africa, being, inter alia, the constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1999, Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act 5 of 2000, Municipal Finance Management Act 56 of 2003, Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004, Prevention of Organised Crime Act 121 of 1998, the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, relevant ethical codes, as well as relevant and applicable policies of government.

“We are satisfied that nothing in the aforementioned witnesses’ statements implicates or may implicate our client in the infringement of the aforementioned statutes, policies of government and relevant ethical codes,” the letter said.

In other words, while not admitting the truth of the testimony against him, Zuma does not believe that, even if it is accepted, it shows he did anything illegal.