Mpofu tells High Court it has jurisdiction over 'bizarre' Jacob Zuma situation

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Former president Jacob Zuma with his lawyer advocate Dali Mpofu during a media briefing in Nkandla. (Photo by Jabulani Langa)
Former president Jacob Zuma with his lawyer advocate Dali Mpofu during a media briefing in Nkandla. (Photo by Jabulani Langa)
  • Former president Jacob Zuma is in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg to apply to have the execution of the Constitutional Court order stayed.
  • Zuma was found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to 15 months in prison.
  • Advocate Dali Mpofu has asked the court to grant the order. 

The rescission of the Constitutional Court's contempt judgment is an extraordinary one and should not be taken lightly, former president Jacob Zuma's advocate Dali Mpofu SC told the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday.

Mpofu, who initially said the case would "take a matter of a few minutes", spent more than two hours arguing his case and telling the court that it had jurisdiction to interfere in the matter.

He said the case was an application to suspend the warrants for the former president's arrest and committal to prison. He also said the State Capture Inquiry's argument that the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the application was a "red herring".

READ | Zuma's latest court bids don't prevent his arrest - State Attorney

"Your lordship has to grant the order asked for," Mpofu said during the virtual hearing.

The fact that that other court happens to be the Constitutional Court does not change the rule set out set out in relevant cases that this court has jurisdiction.

He argued that this was a "bizarre" situation, saying there was a warrant of arrest issued for a former president, who will be turning 80 on his next birthday, and who was not a flight risk.

He said what they were dealing with was the most "egregious invasion of a person's dignity and privacy".

"What is the harm that these respondents will suffer if the order [Constitutional Court order] is suspended?" Mpofu argued.

Asked by Judge Jerome Mnguni if they had considered approaching the Constitutional Court to stay the execution of its order until 12 July, when it will be hearing the rescission application, Mpofu said the High Court had jurisdiction to hear Zuma's application to stay application, adding that the question of why Zuma did not approach the Constitutional Court was "irrelevant".

He added that the apex court would not engage in a wasteful exercise and issue directions in the matter, saying the fact that the court had agreed to hear the matter was an indication that the former president had a "reasonable prospect of success".

READ | Zuma pushing ANC, SA into a crisis that could shake the rule of law, say analysts

He also argued that Zuma had been sentenced without facing trial.

He said even Justice Sisi Khampepe herself had said that it was the first time a person had been taken to direct imprisonment without a trial.

"If that does not shake anybody's spine, nothing ever will," Mpofu added.

The first time in this country where a person is being sent to jail without a trial in proceedings where the applicant seeks solely imprisonment, it has never happened under the sun… never.

In a majority ruling written by Khampepe on Tuesday last week, the Constitutional Court found Zuma guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 15 months in jail.

This Tuesday morning, Cele and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole told acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that they would not act on the Constitutional Court's order on Zuma's arrest, until his legal challenge to his 15-month jail term for contempt was finalised, News24 reported.

This was in the form of a written letter from the State Attorney in Pretoria, who wrote the letter on behalf of Cele and Sitole.

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