For months now, former President, Jacob Zuma, has been defying both the State Capture Commission and the Constitutional Court by refusing to appear before the Commission and to give evidence. He first brought an application to the Commission that the chairperson of the Commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo should recuse himself as Zuma is of the view that the Deputy Chief Justice is biased against him. When that application failed, Zuma and his legal representative walked out of the commission and he vowed never to return.
In January 2021, the commission referred the matter to the Constitutional Court for the Court to compel Zuma to attend the proceedings. Zuma did not oppose the application and the Court ordered him to appear at the Commission and to give evidence. The Commission scheduled Zuma’s appearance for 15 to 19 February 2021.
Several political figures, including EFF leader, Julius Malema, visited Zuma at Nkandla, ostensibly to persuade him to obey the order of the Constitutional Court. The NEC of the ANC was unable to reach a consensus on the issue and in the end decided not to interfere and to leave Zuma to exercise his choice.
True to his words, Zuma did not attend the Commission. The Secretary of the Commission then brought an application to the Constitutional Court to declare Zuma to be in contempt of court for defying the Constitutional Court order for him to appear at the Commission. The Secretary further requested the Court to impose a term of two years imprisonment on the former State President, should he be found to be in contempt of the court order. The Minister of Police and the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service were cited as second and third respondents.
The respondents were given until 08 March 2021 to oppose the application. They failed to file any opposing papers to the application at the end of the day on 08 March 2021. The legal representative for the Secretary of the Commission, Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, filed written arguments to the Constitutional Court in which he argued that former President Zuma should be found guilty of contempt of court and be sentenced to imprisonment for a period of two years because if the Court cannot exert the authority of the courts then the country runs a risk of descending into lawlessness and chaos where people can choose whether to obey court orders or not. There was no counter-argument submitted on behalf of Zuma or any of the other two respondents.
The matter is scheduled for a virtual hearing on Thursday, 25 March 2021. The much anticipated date has finally arrived and the country is holding its breath. The MKMVA has previously promised to defend Zuma should the second and third respondents attempt to execute any warrant of arrest against Zuma. They even went to an extent of camping outside the Zuma residence at Nkandla to prove their point. The country is sharply divided with many saying that Zuma is not above the law and he should not be allowed to be above the law, while his supporters are saying that Zuma should be left alone. The Commission is saying that it will not have a complete picture of the State Capture project if Zuma does not testify. What the Constitutional Court’s decision will be remains a moot point. If the Constitutional Court agrees with the Secretary of the Commission, convict Zuma of contempt and authorises a warrant for his arrest, the second and third respondents are obliged to carry out the court order and effect an arrest on Zuma. That is thevreason why the second and third respondents have been cited in the case. The difficulty with Zuma’s case is that it involves both the law and politics and Zuma has been pushing for a full politicization of the case.
Zuma has got many supporters, not least of which is the Secretary General of the ANC, Ace Magashule. In a case where he was summoned to appear in the Bloemfontein magistrates’ court himself, Magashule has not defied the court and has been in attendance twice already. Precisely what the EFF leader and Zuma discussed during their meeting remains to be seen when the Constitutional Court decides.