CAPE TOWN — Jacob Zuma, the former South African president who left office last year under a cloud of suspicion about his conduct, withdrew on Friday from a high-level inquiry into government corruption, ending a prolonged standoff in which he sought to discredit the lawyers examining him.
“We are here to tell you that we will take no further part in these proceedings,” said Mr. Zuma’s lawyer, Muzi Sikhakhane. The hearings in Johannesburg had been postponed since Wednesday, when Mr. Zuma’s legal team complained that he had been “brought in under false pretenses.”
The commission, chaired by Judge Raymond Zondo, was established to explore allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government, known as state capture. Mr. Zuma’s lawyers argued that the commission had overstepped its mandate in posing detailed questions to the former president.
The line of questioning included the allegations that Mr. Zuma had allowed the Guptas, an Indian business family, to dictate government policy, to the extent that they were allowed to select cabinet ministers sympathetic to their interests.
“Zuma cannot afford to have on record detailed statements which might turn out in a criminal case to be false,” said Pierre de Vos, a constitutional law expert at the University of Cape Town. Instead, Mr. de Vos said, the former president was “trying to discredit the commission.”
The commission was established after an investigation by a former public protector, Thuli Madonsela, that found evidence to suggest corruption in Mr. Zuma’s administration. It does not have prosecutorial powers, and any charges would need to be pursued by the police and the national prosecuting authority.