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Zuma threatens to defy the Constitution he twice swore...

Maverick Citizen


Zuma threatens to defy the Constitution he twice swore to uphold

Former president Jacob Zuma (left) and Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Photos: EPA / Jon Hrusa | Gallo Images / Veli Nhlapo)

The defiance of former president Jacob Zuma is not just a challenge to the Zondo Commission or to the Constitutional Court. It is a challenge to the whole constitutional order that we fought so hard to achieve.

Section 2 of the Constitution, headed Supremacy of the Constitution, declares that “this Constitution is the supreme law of the Republic; law or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid, and the obligations imposed by it must be fulfilled”.

When he was twice sworn in as president, Jacob Zuma took an oath that he would “be faithful to the Republic of South Africa, and will obey, observe, uphold and maintain the Constitution and all other laws of the Republic.”

As a former president he should be the first to show respect for the Constitution that he and his organisation fought for and helped to write; for the Constitutional Court, most of whose current members he appointed and for the Zondo Commission, which he established. Instead, he has openly and publicly declared that he will defy the Constitution, the Court and the Commission.

He is refusing to accept the supremacy of the Constitution.  He insults the judges of the Constitutional Court. In 2017 he had sufficient confidence in the integrity and capacity of Justice Raymond Zondo to elevate him to the position of Deputy Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court. Now he shows blatant rudeness and disdain for the commission and its chair, Justice Zondo.

To make matters worse, in his attempts to belittle the judiciary, Zuma refers to evidence given to the commission concerning efforts to undermine the judges. He does not mention that the evidence pointed to the fact that the security officials involved were allegedly seeking to bribe judges to secure judgments in his favour. It is clearly the failure of any of those attempts to suborn the judiciary that has led him now to attack it.

The former president has no legal, political or moral basis for refusing to testify. Like all witnesses who have appeared before the commission, he will be treated with courtesy and respect. Indeed, the Constitutional Court criticised the commission for treating Zuma far more favourably than other witnesses. The court’s judgment also carefully sets out his constitutional right to refuse to answer questions if he can show that his answers might incriminate him.  

The commission must carry on with its work. It must write up its report.  If Zuma refuses to testify, then he will have no basis whatsoever for challenging its outcome.  He is being offered every opportunity to have his say and to refute the allegations implicating him and people under his control. He cannot be allowed to stave off the day when the report is published. Nor can he be permitted to postpone the day when law enforcement authorities give effect to its findings and recommendations.          

How far this once mighty man has fallen! He says that he is willing to go to jail for his defiance. Should he go to jail now it will be as a sad figure, afraid to answer for his conduct and railing against the legal system that he helped to establish. When he went to jail before, it was in the course of the liberation struggle, as a soldier for freedom, fighting for the nation. Now he is only fighting for himself. We have seen in the US the tragic consequences that can result when narcissism combines with the denial of reality. It is reckless behaviour. It completely undermines what is left of his reputation and what remains of his once fine legacy.

Zuma has over the past decade proclaimed his innocence. He said he wants his day in court to restore his good name. He now has it. 

We as South African citizens must not allow these attempts to destroy our hard-won institutions. What many have died for cannot be destroyed by an individual who wants to place himself above the laws that we all are expected to adhere to. 

In 1998, President Nelson Mandela voluntarily appeared as a witness in the Pretoria High Court to explain his decision to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged racism in rugby. Despite his anger and that of his supporters, who regarded the entire proceedings as disrespectful of him and of his office, Mandela powerfully stated that he was appearing in court out of respect for the rule of law, the administration of justice and to demonstrate openness as all leaders and public servants should. Mandela’s actions remind us that we are equal under the law. Presidents, and former presidents, are not above the law. DM/MC

Cheryl Carolus is chair of the Constitution Hill Trust (CHT). The CHT was established in May 2006 to promote respect for the South African Constitution, human rights and democracy. Find out more about the CHT here.


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All Comments 15

  • When you take that oath, is it just for the time that you are President, or is it “for ever”?
    I don’t think that the oath says anything like “for the duration that you are President”.

  • Absolutely Cheryl and all those other members of the ANC implicite in supporting Zuma, that continue to “serve” with impunity at the tax payers and citizens expense.

    • Correct …. just like that p…y grabbing ex-president of the US … whom the ‘evangelicals’ there decided to ‘forgive’ him for … by claiming ‘reformation’ of character ! Like leopards changing their spots !

  • ‘…his once fine legacy’? Numerous testimonies from his own comrades indicate that Mr Zuma was always in it for his own gain. All that is left of his reputation is what has always tainted it. Evidence indicates he never had any intention of upholding the law or Constitution.

  • He hasn’t fallen very far, tbh. He showed us whilst he was being elected who he was, Kwezi. He was surrounded by yapping puppies who were deaf to all but their own yapping.

    We knew whom we were getting. And we knew who we had all along for those ten long years even as he belly-laughed at his citizens from the protection of Parliament. We knew who Number One was.

    We knew it when Gupta landed at Waterkloof AFB. We knew it when the Scorpions were disbanded and sucked into Selebi’s web. We knew it when gangsters sipped tea in State House. We knew it when Moyane was infiltrated into the revenue service. We knew it when Shaik miraculously clawed his way back to golf and cigars from the brink of certain death. We knew it when plane loads of money appeared at Conference time. We knew it when Nkandla needed a fire-pool. We knew it when VBS made headlines as a lending institution. We knew it when secret Russian agents met in boutique hotels to sell Rosatom products and we discovered that we have a nuclear energy desk in the bureaucracy. We knew it through successive SONA circuses and “No Confidence” votes. We knew it when our strategic oil reserves got… uhm… “rotated”. We knew it SOEs began to make irregular payments. We knew it we nearly got saddled with trillion Rand nuclear plants. We knew it way before Jacques Pauw got to be an author. Oh, we knew it.

    • And so did cr and every other current anc (and some others) member of parliament know, but yet the anc will once again be voted in to rule (not govern) in SA. I think the saying goes something like – only a fool will expect a different outcome, even if he keeps on doing the same thing over and over. Or something to that affect.

  • Of course zuma is prepared to go to jail. His pals control our jails and will provide him with 5 star accommodation and at the right time will assist him to ‘escape’.

  • Pack this whingeing, squealing and devious poor excuse of a man to prison and lose the key. He, along with his equally obnoxious and conniving lawyers have made a mockery of just about everything , are a disgrace to the country and nothing but pathetic cowards. Stand up like a man, Zuma, instead of skulking like a thief in the night.

  • A lot of zuma’s arrogance, I believe stems from the fact that the JSC has not had the balls to fire hlope for attempting to sway constitutional court judges.

  • Time to call the bluff, let’s see how much popular support the Zupta clan really have? Sure there will be a few protests and some will result in violence and looting. In context of making this country better we need to clear the decks and settle once and for all that most ANC supporters are ordinary decent folk that will not back the thugs. The Zupta Must Fall demonstrations crossed party and race barriers and were an eye-opener. Zuma thinks he has an army, let’s see. We cannot continue as we are.

  • Put this man in jail. That is where he obviously wants to be so that he can die a martyr. So be it. He has a legacy of disgrace, corruption and evil.

  • He could plead ignorance of what the swearing of the ‘oath’ of allegiance to uphold the constitution mean ? I mean why not ? Can you convict someone for utter stupidity ? In the US they had a president who famously “knows nothing” about white supremacist groups … who magically all turned up an attempted insurrection he called for ! We the public are the idiots !

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