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Zondo inquiry: ‘Zuma disobeyed’ and attacked ConCourt ‘in seeking to justify his disobedience’

The Zondo commission has reiterated its call for former president Jacob Zuma to be jailed for contempt in papers filed on Monday. It enumerated the number of times he has insulted the Constitutional Court, the judiciary and the inquiry into state capture.

In the written submission to the apex court, the commission referenced media statements by Zuma and said his scathing defiance was “patently designed to imperil the rule of law”.

The commission argued that Zuma’s failure to file a replying affidavit to the commission’s application for a contempt order last week was further testimony to his resolute defiance of the court and the extraordinary order granted against him on 28 January.

“The respondent and former president, Mr Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, has intentionally disobeyed this court’s order of 28 January 2021 and publicly attacked this court in seeking to justify his disobedience,” it said. 

“He has no legally valid reason for the disobedience, nor are his tirades against this court and the judiciary fair or justified.” 

That ruling compelled Zuma to comply with a summons to testify before the inquiry for five days in February and answer to the evidence implicating him in state capture during his nine years in office. It followed a shadow fight of more than two years as Zuma dodged directives from the commission and turned his refusal to testify into a personal crusade against Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

Zuma responded to the ruling by accusing the judiciary of being beholden to political interests and, predictably, refusing to take the witness stand.

The commission then asked the court to rule him in contempt and sentence him to two years in prison.

In reply, the commission noted, Zuma again issued a statement “replete with insults and vituperative attacks against this court, the commission and the judiciary”.

It did, however, offer an escape clause. Should the court decide rather to impose a suspended, coercive sentence, the commission said it would make arrangements to hear Zuma’s testimony before its life span expired.

A subsequent statement from his namesake foundation claimed that the former president had offered to do so.

But in the submission filed on Monday, the commission disputed this.

“Mr Zuma has not come forth to give any undertaking that he would do so,” it stated.

“Mr Zuma has remained resolute in his defiance of the commission and this court, with the result that no purpose would be served by a suspended sentence.”

The court has set down March 25 as the date it will hear the application. 

The commission argued that the Constitutional Court is best placed to rule on the matter and raised the spectre of Zuma resorting to an appeal process should it instead come before the high court.

Moreover, it added: “The seriousness of this public injury requires this court to assert its special authority as the highest court in constitutional matters and the ultimate guardian of the constitution and its values, by holding Mr Zuma in contempt of court and issuing an appropriate sentence.”

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