South African anti-graft panel asks police to investigate Zuma after walkout

Former South African president Jacob Zuma (R) arrives to appear before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that is probing wide-ranging allegations of corruption in government and state-owned companies in Johannesburg, on July 19, 2019. - Zuma, who started testifying on July 15, has rebuffed all accusations of wrongdoing and said he and his family had received death threats after his first appearance. (Photo by MIKE HUTCHINGS / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIKE HUTCHINGS/AFP/Getty Images)

The South African panel currently looking into corruption during Jacob Zuma’s reign, on Monday said it would ask the police to investigate the former president after his walkout last week.

“I have decided to request the secretary of the commission to lay a criminal complaint with the South African police against Mr. Zuma so that the police can investigate his conduct,” the commission’s chair and deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo said in a statement.

After months of playing cat-and-mouse Zuma appeared before the commission last week seeking what he called an “impartial” judge, after accusing Zondo of bias and demanding he recuses himself.

But Zondo tossed out the application on Thursday, saying it “failed to meet the test for a reasonable apprehension of bias.”

Shortly after the ruling, the commission took a few minutes recess, but Zuma and his lawyer Muzi Sikhakhane, did not return.

Zuma had been expected to face a request to take to the witness stand.

According to the Commissions Act of 1947, anyone absconding from summons to appear before such a forum, as Zuma did, is liable to a fine or even imprisonment of up to six months if found guilty.

The commission will now issue fresh summons to force Zuma to return to testify.

Zuma has only testified once, in July 2019, but pulled out after a few days, saying he was being treated as an “accused” rather than as a witness.

At least 34 witnesses have directly or indirectly implicated Zuma, who has denied any wrongdoing.