/ 26 March 2021

Zuma threatens uprising against courts in latest attack on judiciary

Safrica Politics Corruption Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Kim Ludbrook/AFP)

Jacob Zuma did not let a day go by after the Constitutional Court heard argument that he must be jailed for contempt before launching a fresh invective against the judiciary, with a threat of political instability thrown in.

In an eight-page statement issued late on Thursday, the former president made the claim that South Africa was heading for a crisis in which the masses would be forced to revolt against the courts for exceeding their powers.

“I strongly agree with the public sentiment that is starting to see the emergence of a judicial dictatorship in South Africa. 

“We have in South Africa today the gradual entrenchment of the counter-majoritarian problem. Unfortunately, when people rise up against this judicial corruption, our young democracy will unravel and many democratic gains will be lost in the ashes that will be left of what used to be our democratic state,” the statement read.

The statement was issued hours after the Constitutional Court reserved judgment on the application by the Zondo commission that Zuma be handed a punitive sentence for defying an order by the apex court on 28 January compelling him to testify before the state capture inquiry.

Zuma did not bother to file submissions to the court.

“My experience is that many South African judges, including those of the Constitutional Court, can no longer bring an open mind to cases involving me,” he said.

“It is a travesty of justice to observe how the Constitutional Court has allowed itself to be abused in this manner, and the repeated warnings I have made in this regard continue to go unheard simply because they emanate from me.”

Zuma disingenuously claimed that he was advised not to formally oppose the application to escape a punitive costs order, only for the commission to plead for one regardless.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, for the commission, had argued that Zuma’s failure to file papers was proof that he had abandoned the legal process to embark on a political campaign to evade accountability for his actions as president and any involvement in state capture.

Ngcukaitobi argued that the matter was urgent, because Zuma was likely to continue his attacks on the authority of the courts. In a series of earlier missives this year, he has claimed that senior judges have taken bribes and repeatedly personally attacked Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

In his latest statement, Zuma said the commission was a wastefully expensive and inefficient exercise, and sought to make him the scapegoat for delays of its own making.

The commission went to court in December to compel Zuma to testify and submitted a detailed timeline of how he frustrated its attempts to bring him to respond to evidence implicating him in state capture.

The final straw was him walking out of the sitting in which his application for Zondo’s recusal was dismissed.

Zuma reiterated that he was prepared to go to prison rather than bow to a court system he believed to be biased.

“I do not stand against the rule of law but seek to defend my own rights against the onslaught emanating from the commission and our courts. I believe that history will absolve me.”

“I will serve the term of imprisonment imposed by the Constitutional Court — that has already become the focus point of the Defend Our Democracy Campaign,” he said, referring to the movement launched by prominent figures last week to protect the constitutional order.

“However, I will not subject myself to an oppressive and unjust court system. They can put my physical body behind prison doors; however, my spirit is free to speak against the injustice of the imprisonment. Our people — ordinary people — will gain their voice and when they do, not even the Constitutional Court will not be spared the rigorous questions.”

Zuma cried foul because Justice Dhaya Pillay was on the bench hearing the application for the contempt order.

Pillay formerly presided over the arms-deal corruption case in KwaZulu-Natal and last year issued a suspended warrant for his arrest in that matter after he produced a deficient sick note.