Zuma claims Zondo commission isn't being truthful about inefficiencies, using him as 'scapegoat'

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Former president Jacob Zuma
Former president Jacob Zuma
PHOTO: Peter Foley/Getty Images, Pool
  • On Thursday, the Constitutional Court heard an application for Zuma to be found guilty of contempt of court and jailed for two years.
  • Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, on behalf of the state capture commission, called for Zuma to be jailed for two years.
  • Zuma said he believes he is being used as a "scapegoat".

Former president Jacob Zuma, through his foundation, released a scathing statement on the Constitutional Court case aimed at finding him in contempt of a court order to appear before the Zondo commission of inquiry.

Zuma is accused of repeatedly defying an inquiry summons for his appearance, walking out of the commission on 19 November 2020, and making false corruption claims against the judiciary.

On Thursday, Zuma said he believed "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".

"The truth is that the commission approached the Constitutional Court directly to compel me to appear on the grounds that [it] was running out of time and that approaching a lower court, as is the correct legal procedure, would have caused delays that would have affected the timelines around which the commission needed to finish its work," Zuma said.

READ | Zuma acted 'maliciously', should be ordered to pay commission's legal costs, says lawyer

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court heard an application for Zuma to be found guilty of contempt of court and jailed for two years. The application follows Zuma's defiance of a Constitutional Court order instructing him to give evidence before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

He said: 

Ordinarily and if I had faith that a South African court would consider my submissions, I would present them to the Constitutional Court. However, 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 as they have done in awarding legal costs against me in a case I had not participated in.

He said he believed he was being used as a "scapegoat".

"The commission has never been truthful about its own inefficiencies that include hiring expensive premises with extravagant extras and overstaffing with expensive investigators and legal personnel that caused the costs of the commission to grossly exceed its initial allocated budget.

"In an attempt to cover up these inefficiencies and wasteful expenditure, the commission sought to scapegoat me by asking the Constitutional Court to encroach (on) my constitutional rights," he said.

ALSO READ: FACT CHECK | Jacob Zuma’s attacks on Raymond Zondo, the capture commission and the judiciary

On Thursday, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, on behalf of the state capture commission, called for Zuma to be jailed for two years. He said his defiance of a summons and a Constitutional Court order threatened the country's entire constitutional order.

He told the court Zuma was acting with malice and should be punished for his actions with a punitive costs order and jail time.

"The utterances that Mr Zuma has made are malicious utterances. He is also acting without any facts.

He said:

Mr Zuma completely disregards any evidence. He just launches an attack that is completely bereft of fact. Once you combine the malice and the untruthfulness, it becomes clear that a normal cost order is not sufficient.

Ngcukaitobi also said the court had heard many contempt of court matters, but that none had come close to this case.

He said the court itself had "become the target of Mr Zuma's angry, threatening and, quite frankly, provocative tirades".

He also argued that Zuma had made public utterances against the court and that "those utterances are unjustified, false and malicious".

"We would say, what you should take into account here [is] to impose two years' [imprisonment]', which is a serious penalty."

'Oppressive and unjust court'

He added that the court should consider Zuma's position as a former president, as well as his political standing and influence in society.

"That weighs a great deal. You should also take into account the forceful and public nature of his disobedience."

Judgment was reserved in the matter.

Zuma, however, said he refused to be subjected to an "oppressive and unjust court".

He said: 

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 be spared the rigorous questions.

"All South Africans should be concerned about the dangerous situation we are heading towards. The core principles about separation of powers between the judiciary, legislature and the executive are being gradually weakened. More concerning for me as a person who fought for this democracy, is how the judiciary is now in the position where they are beyond reproach and the judges in this country are continuously taking extra powers to themselves to the detriment of legitimate democratic processes.

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

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