AS IT HAPPENED | ConCourt reserves judgment against Zuma for failing to appear before Zondo commission

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Former president Jacob Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma
PHOTO: Thulani Mbele/Gallo Images, Sowetan
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25 March 11:28


25 March 11:21

IMPORTANT: Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng did not preside in the commission's original case to compel former president Zuma to appear before it. That is likely why he did not preside over the contempt case.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 11:19

Ngcukaitobi argues that Zuma should be ordered to pay the commission's legal costs in bringing the contempt case against him. He says the former president has acted maliciously – and slams him for failing to file any response to the contempt case against him and explain his attacks on the judicial system.

Ngcukaitobi wraps up his submission.

Judgment has been reserved. Court is adjourned.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 11:17

Ngcukaitobi: "What this court deserves, at least, is an explanation. It did not even get that explanation. And that failure to provide an explanation is simply part and parcel of the malicious behaviour of Mr Zuma."

Justice Theron asks Ngcukaitobi if Zuma's failure to give an explanation should be taken into account in respect of the length of imprisonment, and a punitive costs order. 

"Yes, that's exactly the point I'm making," Ngcukaitobi says.

25 March 11:11

The commission was strongly criticised by the Constitutional Court for not subpoenaing Zuma in July 2019, when it became apparent that he was not willing to appear before the commission and answer questions. The court went as far as to find that the commission gave the former head of state "special treatment".  

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 11:00

Justice Leana Theron asks Ngcukaitobi if Zuma is not entitled – under the right to freedom of speech – to criticise the Constitutional Court.

Yes, he says, but the former president is not entitled to launch false and malevolently motivated attacks on the court and members of the judiciary – some of whom he has accused of being bribed by President Cyril Ramaphosa – with no evidence.

 - Karyn Maughan

Ngcukaitobi: "There is no one who is entitled to insult, falsely and untruthfully, the Constitutional Court. Everyone is entitled to say the judges are wrong. Everyone is entitled to say that the judgments do not follow the law."

Ngcukaitobi: "But there is no one who is entitled to say that the judges have 'abandoned their green robes'. No one is entitled to say that some judges have received money from Mr Ramaphosa. No one is entitled to say that the Constitutional Court has become a threat to democracy. No one is entitled to say that the judgment of the Constitutional Court mimics the posture that has been adopted by the commission, which is designed to make unfair judgments against Mr Zuma." 

Ngcukaitobi: "That is not criticism. That is not a debate. Those are plain insults. They are false, they are unfounded, they cannot be justified. Mr Zuma is not even here to complain about his freedom of speech. He is quite happy that he has made his remarks because they fall in the category of political campaigns."

25 March 10:58

Comment: It is apparent that the Constitutional Court is wary of granting an order that would result in Zuma's immediate imprisonment. Ngcukaitobi is facing multiple questions about whether the court should not grant an order that required Zuma to appear before the commission to avoid jail time.

"No," he says, because this would allow Zuma to continue abusing the Constitutional Court.

I am not sure that the court will accept that, as such a ruling will be the first time that SA's highest court orders direct imprisonment for someone guilty of contempt.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:53

Ngcukaitobi: "The spectacle we fear, is the spectacle of Mr Zuma continuing to run rings around the commission. Because he is brought today, he doesn't speak, he is brought the other day, and the entire thing degenerates into a circus."

25 March 10:52

In response to questions from Justice Majiedt, Ngcukaitobi confirms that the commission has "abandoned all hope" that Zuma will appear before the commission.

"We do not ask for his appearance, we ask for his punishment," he says.

Justice Tshiqi asks if this would not be counter-productive.

"No," says Ngukaitobi, because imprisonment was a "clear effective remedy" that would ensure that Zuma would not continue to "run rings" around the commission.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:45

Justice Madlanga now raising questions about the evidential value of Zuma's media statements in response to the Constitutional Court ruling against them and the contempt case launched against him. Ngcukaitobi argues that the statements are part of the commission's case for why Zuma should be imprisoned for contempt. If there was any dispute about their truthfulness, he said, it should have been raised by Zuma. It was not.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:43

Ngcukaitobi says there is a pattern being repeated in Zuma's tactics.

Ngcukaitobi: "I'm afraid there is no option - he should have gone to the commission on the 15th of February. He did not do so, and he deliberately did not do so. So to try and now find some sort of justification for him, when he has not bothered to put it under oath here, simply brings about, discredit to the institution of the judiciary."

Ngcukaitobi: "Mr Zuma knows his legal rights, he has senior counsel advising him."

25 March 10:41

Justice Leana Theron asks Ngcukaitobi what the impact would be if Zuma's review of DCJ Zondo's refusal to recuse himself was successful. She points out that Zuma contends that Zondo appears to be biased against him. That may be so, Ngcukaitobi says, but that does not mean that Zuma must not comply with the Constitutional Court's ruling.

Justice Madlanga refers to the fact that Zuma has failed to seek an interdict, staying the implementation of the orders against him, pending the outcome of his recusal review.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:31

Justice Leana Theron asks Ngcukaitobi if the contempt case against Zuma is urgent, given that the commission was no longer seeking to force him to appear before it and answer questions.

He stresses that Zuma's contempt is "so extreme" that it must be dealt with urgently. He also points out that Zuma has failed to provide any explanation for his conduct.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:28

Justice Tshiqi asks Ngukaitobi if the commission had any other alternative but to seek Zuma's imprisonment through a contempt application at the Constitutional Court. "No," he says, because Zuma defied a Constitutional Court ruling.

She asks if "going the contempt route" was the only option available to the commission. "Yes," he says.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:26

Justice Sisi Khampepe is leading the Constitutional Court this morning.

Ngcukaitobi now arguing on why the commission's contempt case is urgent – and stresses that "we are dealing with an ongoing attack on the court" and Zuma's "ongoing failure to comply". He says allowing Zuma to continue attacking the Constitutional Court without consequence will have damaging social consequences.

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:21

Ngcukaitobi, for the Zondo commission, says there are "strong reasons for why Mr Zuma should be imprisoned" and not fined for his multiple acts of contempt against the commission. He refers to Zuma's unfounded attacks on the Constitutional Court, which he compared to the apartheid government for demanding that he appear before the state capture inquiry and answer non-incriminating questions.

More than anything, Ngcukaitobi says: "We are dealing with a cynical manoeuvre to avoid accountability".

 - Karyn Maughan

25 March 10:18

Ngcukaitobi: "When we came before the Constitutional Court in December 2020, after a summons had been issued against Mr Zuma, the target of his belligerence was Justice Zondo in his capacity as chair of the commission. And that was of course after Justice Zondo had ruled against Mr Zuma in the recusal application."

Ngcukaitobi says that after the Constitutional Court granted judgment against Zuma, the court itself had become the target of Zuma's "angry, threatening, and quite frankly, provocative tirades".

25 March 10:14

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi starts with his opening remarks. 

Ngcukaitobi: "On the 29th, 28th rather, of January, the Constitutional Court granted an order directing Mr Zuma to obey the summons issued by the commission, and to attend and give evidence before the commission. It also ordered him to submit affidavits as per regulation 10(6) of the commission regulations.

Ngcukaitobi: "As we speak today, Mr Zuma has not complied with that order, he has not attended at the commission and he has not submitted the affidavits as required. But, in his failure to comply, he has also adopted a belligerent and defiant tone."

25 March 10:08

Proceedings are now under way.

25 March 09:56

ANALYSIS | Does the Constitutional Court have the fortitude to defend rule of law, judiciary?

On Thursday 25 March 2021, the Constitutional Court will hear an application for contempt of court order against the former president Jacob Zuma.

The application is consequent to Zuma’s defiance of a Constitutional Court ruling ordering him to appear before the Zondo Commission to give evidence.

Although the issue is framed as former president Jacob Zuma’s contempt of an order of the Constitutional Court, the broader picture is that it is about disrespect of the rule of law, the Constitution, the judiciary and the commission of inquiry chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.


25 March 09:56


Zuma sought to 'exploit' status as ex-president, Zondo commission tells ConCourt

The State capture inquiry says former president Jacob Zuma has "...sought to exploit his political status as the former president", by defying a Constitutional Court order that he appear before it – and it is adamant he should be jailed for contempt.

In heads of argument filed at the Constitutional Court this morning, the commission points out that Zuma had not taken the opportunity to assure the country’s highest court that he would appear before the commission and answer non-incriminating questions put to him.

"Mr Zuma has not filed any notice to oppose or answering affidavit in these proceedings. Nor has he stated whether or not he abides (by) the decision of the Court," the inquiry stated.

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