/ 3 July 2021

ConCourt to hear Zuma’s rescission application on 12 July

South Africans may well be seduced by the prospect of Zuma taking the stand at the Zondo commission. But he was not alone in driving the state capture project.
Former president Jacob Zuma. (Getty Images)

The Constitutional Court will hear former president Jacob Zuma’s application for a rescission of his 15-month sentence for contempt on Monday 12 July, according to directives issued by the court on Saturday.

The Zondo commission, which has indicated that it will oppose the application, was given until Tuesday next week to file papers.

Zuma must file a replying affidavit, if any, by the following day and his written representations to the court by Thursday, according to the notice from the registrar. The opposing respondents have until Friday to file theirs.

The rescission application will be heard virtually, the court indicated.

In his application filed on Friday, the former president is asking the court to set aside both the contempt order and the prison sentence, as well as its instructions that he hand himself over to the police by Sunday at the latest, or face arrest within the next three days.

Zuma pleads with the court to “relook its decision and to merely reassess whether it has acted within the constitution or, erroneously, beyond the powers vested in the court by the constitution”.

His application was brought in terms  of rule 42 of the uniform rules of court, read with rule 29 of the constitutional court, which states that a court may vary or rescind a ruling granted in the absence of the affected party.

Zuma chose not to oppose the application for a contempt order against him filed by the Zondo commission in February after he failed to heed a summons to testify before it, in direct violation of an order from the apex court compelling him to do so.

In his founding affidavit, Zuma claims that he found himself without legal counsel and with limited financial resources, and sought rather to prioritise securing lawyers to represent him in his corruption trial before the KwaZulu-Natal high court.

“In fact, the decision not to appear was very innocent at best and merely strategic at worst,” he says.

The affidavit takes a far more muted tone than the raging attacks on the courts that contributed to his sentence, but sees Zuma sticking to his refrain that he has been denied his constitutional right to fairness. 

He denounces the judgment as flawed, and deserving to be set aside.

Referring to his health, Zuma implies firstly that prison might kill him, and secondly that he believes he is not receiving the benefit of judicial impartiality.

“Given my own unstable state of health, and that it is my physical life that the incarceration order threatens, I believe that I am entitled to a court that will examine — with passionate disinterest, but a keen sense of judicial duty and independence — whether this judgment represents the law on contempt of court orders in a constitutional democracy that is undergirded by the constitution whose foundational values are human dignity, equality, ubuntu and the advancement of human rights or whether, as I seek to assert, it is underlined by rescindable errors and omissions.”

Zuma has filed a separate urgent application to the KwaZulu-Natal high court asking that a warrant for his arrest, signed by Justice Sisi Khampepe, be stayed pending the outcome of his apex court application.

But this application also goes further and asks the court to declare the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional for not making provision for contempt proceedings “conducted for the sole and exclusive purpose of securing the imprisonment of any person”.

The Zondo commission did not seek a coercive, suspended sentence, aimed at bringing Zuma to still testify before it, but instead argued that direct imprisonment was the only appropriate sanction for the level of contempt he had displayed.

In his affidavit, Zuma challenges the legitimacy of the Zondo commission and infers that its findings will lack credibility.

But he denies that he ever showed the commission disrespect, including when he walked out of a sitting last year. Zuma claims that he had simply left the premises to take his medication.