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'Nothing untoward' in my interactions with Zondo, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa and chief justice Raymond Zondo at the handing over of the final instalment of the state capture report at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and chief justice Raymond Zondo at the handing over of the final instalment of the state capture report at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Image: GCIS.

 President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked South Africans to believe both him and chief justice Raymond Zondo when they say there was nothing untoward in their communication with one another ahead of the release of the final instalment of the state capture report.

“I cannot accept the innuendos and suppositions being made that there was any way in which the chief justice and I could have discussed the substance of the work. It is quiet demeaning, actually, because it is way below what the chief justice would do,” said a stern Ramaphosa.

Speaking during a question-and-answer session at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, Ramaphosa said Zondo had underpinned his work with a great deal of “honesty, fairness and integrity”.

TimesLIVE reported that Zondo denied meeting Ramaphosa to discuss the “timing” of the release of the commission’s final report. This came after it was reported on Monday that Zondo had postponed the planned release of the report after discussions about its timing with Ramaphosa.

This birthed accusations by the DA that Ramaphosa was unduly interfering with the inquiry’s work. Zondo has since denied the claims, saying he asked for the postponement to give himself time to do quality checks on the report before it went out for public consumption.

Ramaphosa said: “The chief justice had wanted to communicate to me about the time of handing over the report. We had at an earlier stage discussed that it would be good to have this type of occasion where the report is handed over as it was done the first time.

“When he realised that he was not going to make that appointment, he felt the need to communicate with me and he said that, ‘I do this with due respect in relation to the process of handing over the report’.

“I think one has to take both of us at our word in that we have dealt with each other with a great deal of integrity, not for once ever wanting to discuss the substance of the work that the chief justice was doing.

“Not once did we even discuss the evidence that I presented to the commission which was heard by the chief justice and he had said that he has a chapter or so dealing with the evidence. I do not even know where that is.

“And for all I care, and the high regard I have for the chief justice, he could have made a negative finding against me, which I would accept, and it is in the basis on which we deal with each other on these matters because the chief justice has to do his work without fear, without favour, and without any form of prejudice.”

As the judge who has been chairing the commission, Ramaphosa said Zondo had been guided precisely by that.

When asked if he would do anything different about the delays and the perception that this could compromise the credibility of the report, Zondo said: “I have had occasion quite a few times in the past four years to emphasise how important the work of this commission was. I have indicated the lengths to which I have gone to try to make sure that if anything goes wrong it shouldn’t be because we did not try to make sure things were done right.”

Zondo said that had been his approach as well as that of the commission.

But, he said, this didn't mean they were never in a situation that they would have preferred not to be in.

He admitted there had been delays.

“It would have been difficult to avoid some of the delays, if not all of them. I am satisfied that we have done all that we could to make sure that if anything was found wrong with the report by a court it should not be because we treated the report in a manner that did not show how important it is.”

He added that of course he would have liked a situation where there were no delays and everything happened on time.

“People have the right to go to court and challenge the report and the commission will deal with those when they come.”

In hindsight, Zondo said he wouldn’t do anything differently and he had no regrets.

“I like evaluating my actions and decisions from time to time because I believe that one should always be able to recognise when one has made a mistake and be prepared to apologise.”

He said he could not think of a decision that he had taken that he regretted, however he said he would have changed the way the hearings and investigations were conducted in the beginning.

When asked if he would act against some of his ministers or himself if he was implicated in the report, Ramaphosa said he does not know what is contained in the final report and would start reading it that night.

“I will go through it very carefully on my flight to Cape Town and I will be making markings and notes and of course once one has gone through that, we will be able to form a view. I will within four months be going to present to parliament a full implementation plan in terms of what we are going to do.”

He said he was aware than many wanted him to “act tomorrow” but “we will follow the process”.

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