FACT CHECK | Propaganda, Zondo, and the judiciary: 5 claims made during Zuma's media briefing

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Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses the media in his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.
Former South African president Jacob Zuma addresses the media in his home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

Former president Jacob Zuma on Sunday night held a media briefing amid tensions after his prison sentencing last week. Zuma took a swipe at the judiciary, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, and also said his treatment by the Constitutional Court was worse than his treatment during Apartheid. We fact-checked some of his main claims.

Former president Jacob Zuma last Tuesday was sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment for contempt of court, in relation to a Constitutional Court order to appear before the State Capture Inquiry. He was to hand himself over today.

However, on Friday, Zuma's legal team filed papers challenging the ConCourt's decision. That will be heard in court on Monday, meaning Zuma no longer has to hand himself over, for now.

AS IT HAPPENED | Zuma fights back after ConCourt sentencing

He argued in papers that he believed that because "it is my own unstable state of health and that it is my physical life that the incarceration order threatens" he is "entitled" to have the country's highest court re-examine its ruling.

On the back of Tuesday's ruling, supporters flocked to Nkandla to show their support to the embattled former president. The MKMVA has also thrown its support behind Zuma.

Supporters hold placards as they gather in front o
Supporters outside Zuma's Nkandla homestead on Sunday.

1. Zuma says he has never refused to appear before the Zondo Commission.

This is false. On numerous occasions, in 2020, the commission tried to secure Zuma's attendance to answer tough questions. Ultimately, the commission had to subpoena him to appear. The former president refused to attend the commission's hearings. He only appeared briefly in 2019 and used the time to further a conspiracy theory that he is the victim of a large-scale campaign. 

Zuma said during the briefing: "Contrary to the mainstream narrative and propaganda against me, I have never refused to appear in front of the State Capture Commission." This is not true. Three dates were set for his appearance, and he never appeared. He then launched an attempt to have DCJ Zondo removed as chairperson of the commission. When he was eventually forced to appear, he left the commission before answering any questions.

READ | Zuma rejects court judgment, says Khampepe was ‘emotional and angry’

The ConCourt then granted an application by the commission to force Zuma to appear in January and February this year. Zuma ignored the order and did not appear at the commission.

2. Zuma said: "South Africa sliding back into apartheid rule."

This is also not true. South Africa is a constitutional democracy where everyone has equal rights. Indeed, Zuma has been given ample opportunity to state his case in front of the country's most senior judges. He chose not to.

Supporters gesture as they gather in front of form
Supporters dance and sing in front of Zuma's Nkandla homestead on Sunday.

3. Zuma strongly made the point that he was convicted and sentenced before he could argue for mitigation of sentence.

This is untrue. Zuma was asked numerously by the Constitutional Court to respond to the Zondo Commission's argument that he should be imprisoned for two years. Zuma refused to respond. If he acted on bad legal advice, he should say so. He hasn't.

FULL JUDGMENT | Zuma sentenced to 15 months imprisonment

4. Zuma said that "there is something wrong with our judiciary", and added that "not all the judges" and then proceeds to say he knows of a judge who said Zuma "will be guilty when he comes here".

This he does without providing any evidence whatsoever. 

5. The former president said: "They never questioned me why did I take that action," with reference to the judges that considered the contempt case at the Constitutional Court.

Again, Zuma was repeatedly and amply afforded opportunities to engage the court, to file affidavits and to persuade the court to his point of view. He refused to do so. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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