South Africa


Zondo to ask Constitutional Court to sentence Zuma to prison on contempt charges

The witness stand where former president Jacobb Zuma was supposed the give evidence from at the state capture commission,the chairperson deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo was expected to hear evidence from former president Jacob Zuma,the former president did not attend the commission when he was expected to.Photo:Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

Judge Raymond Zondo takes no prisoners as he tells the former president he is subject to the law and the Constitution.

Judge Raymond Zondo has instructed the legal team at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to bring contempt of court charges against former president Jacob Zuma in the Constitutional Court after he failed to appear before the inquiry despite being summonsed. 

Zuma has been implicated in State Capture by more than 40 witnesses in three years of evidence heard by the commission. He was due to answer at this week’s hearings but failed to appear for the second time this year. 

The court ruled in January that Zuma was compelled to appear and testify before the commission, but he issued a seven-page statement on social media instead, saying he was being subjected to a witch-hunt and that he would not obey “their law”.

“The commission will make an application to the Constitutional Court seeking an order that Mr Zuma is guilty of contempt of court, then it is up to that court to decide what to do. It can impose a term of imprisonment or a fine. The commission will approach the Constitutional Court and ask it to impose a term of imprisonment.  It will be up to the court to decide what is appropriate,” said Zondo. 

He said Zuma’s failure to appear was very serious – especially as a former head of state who had taken an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. He said Zuma had fled the commission on 19 November and then failed to appear when summonsed in January. On his third strike of defiance against the commission, the mild-mannered deputy chief justice took no prisoners. He lectured Zuma from his commission bench on the rule of law and about all being equal before the law.  

A protester showing support for the State Capture Commission on 15 February 2021. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

“It is a pity Mr Zuma has decided not to appear before the commission today in defiance of a summons. That it was done by a former president of the country who took an oath to uphold the Constitution is an even greater pity.  

“The commission did not rush to issue summons, run to the Constitutional Court to get an order compelling him to appear. The commission did so when it was clear that he really was not prepared to comply with the summons.  

“The Constitutional Court has made it clear in its judgment that a witness summonsed is not just… present, they must testify and answer questions and can’t leave without being excused by the chairperson even when reminded it was not up to him to just up and leave,” said Zondo. 

Zuma’s actions risked eroding the rule of law if allowed to stand, said Zondo.

“Summonses get issued every day, and if the message that gets sent out is that people can disregard summonses and court orders issued every day and defy those with impunity, there will be very little [left of the law],” he said Zondo. 

He said the former president did not have his set of laws. 

“Our Constitution tells us we are all equal before the law. We are all subject to the Constitution and the law, and we are all required to obey the courts’ orders. We are bound [by the law] whether you like it or not. There should be no two legal systems regarding these rules. There should be no rules for some and other rules for others. We are all subject to the same laws.”  

Zondo said Zuma’s legal team chose not to oppose the Constitutional Court application made by the commission to compel the former head of state to appear before it even though they had been given a copy of the legal papers ahead of the hearing. 

Evidence leader advocate Paul Pretorius at the State Capture Commission on 15 February 2021. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

The commission’s secretary, Itumeleng Mosala, had said in his papers before the Constitutional Court that the fact that Zuma had approached the same court for the right to bring a recusal application against Zondo before it was not a ground in law for him not to appear on a different summons.

”If they thought that was not correct in law, they could have contested. They chose not to contest that or to participate in those proceedings,” said Zondo, who repeated the Constitutional Court’s finding that witnesses before his commission did not have a right to silence since that was a privilege in criminal proceedings. Zuma had the privilege against self-incrimination. “They [Zuma’s lawyers] knew this was an issue to be raised. If they had a case to the contrary, it was up to them to place their arguments before the Constitutional Court.  They chose not to do so.”

Earlier, Zondo noted that Zuma has repeatedly said that no witnesses had implicated him in State Capture. The judge wondered aloud why then the former president was worried about self-incrimination. 

“The commission views Mr Zuma’s actions in a very serious light. He has no valid or sound reason not to appear,” said Zondo before he adjourned proceedings.  

The State Capture Inquiry is supposed to conclude its hearings by the end of March and report to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the end of June. The application for contempt of court order against Zuma and a request for a prison term to be imposed on him may delay its conclusion. 

Ramaphosa will lead an ANC delegation before the commission, possibly in March. DM

See report by Ferial Haffajee from earlier on Monday here.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Con Tester says:

    Zondo has been way too polite and accommodating of peevish Jacob’s whimsies and foibles. Any dillydallying or hesitancy here by the ConCourt about dropping a hefty prison term on insolent Jacob will seriously undermine the notion that the law has any teeth left in SA, especially when dealing with blusterous stuffed shirts from the ruling class who occupy a self-accorded position above the law.

  • Alley Cat says:

    I have huge respect for Justice Zondo, but I’m wondering why he has involved the concourt again, particularly in light of their criticism of him in their last related judgement?
    Surely one issues a contempt order which I understood he has the power to do? The SAPS must follow up and arrest him?

    • Con Tester says:

      My guess is that Zondo approached the ConCourt directly because he needs a lawful order where there can be no further appeals, so that the order can be executed promptly.

      • Francois Myburgh says:

        Spot on!

      • Johan Buys says:

        If Zondo started at local police station the contempt hearing would take another year. What if the ConCourt takes the easy route and issues a fine? Then Zondo probably issues another summons that Zuma again ignores. Then the Concourt would have no basis for a second fine? Grow a pair and arrest him so that we can once and for all determine how big his support base really is. I suspect his support will approximate the Trump idiots that tried to take the Capitol but cannot topple an overloaded shopping cart trolley.

    • Coen Gous says:

      Zondo did the right thing. This commission is still ongoing, and they, neither South Africa, can afford the commission’s work to come to a halt if Deputy Chief Justice laid an arrest charge directly with the police/hawks. The reaction would have been immense, which would have destabilise the commission’s work before it has finished its work. Imagine the protests, even violent protests, that would happen on the front door of the commission, as promised by Zuma’s son Edward. It would have also lead to endless appeals by Zuma himself. No, let concourt make a decision which can’t be appealed, and let the commission complete their difficult job. Zuma’s evidence would not have been reliable in any case…pleading innocence, denials, objections by his lawyer. Advocate Pretorius summary of accusations were brilliant, scary to hear all in less than two hours. For the first time ever I feel Zuma’s days are numbered, and those that still support him will also meet their match, if not facing jail time as well.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    Simple – he has elected not to cross-examine all those who’ve implicated him so their evidence must be taken at face value. Put him in jail and leave him there until all the other charges are brought – and there should be hundreds.

  • Chris 123 says:

    Just lock the traitor up and be done with it.

  • Monique Martinez says:

    It’s about time all the corrupt looters get put behind bars !

    • Red Howell says:

      JZ is many diabolical things but let’s not kid ourselves – he’s is tactically minded and not stupid. In my view he has considered what happened today as one of the possible outcomes and, if the CC finds him to be in contempt (likely) and he submits himself to being imprisoned, it will be for a reason – wider political strategy maybe [vide Nkandla Tea Party, how it tactically “arranged” on Twitter (yeah right..)] and what could have been discussed there. Wheels within wheels and I believe that JZ is working several steps ahead.
      Consider this:

      JZ has many offshore friends and probably has resources stashed somewhere.
      JZ gets mysteriously ill at the drop of a Nkandla Teacup.
      As of today there is no warrant for JZ’s arrest.
      JZ has a passport.
      Extradition processes are lengthy and not guaranteed.
      In 2 years based on successful disruptive, wider political strategy, the ANC, the Presidency and the Country could be controlled by a RET Faction.

      Does out law provide for presidential pardons?? Honestly, I’m not sure but one thing is for sure – JZ works 3 to 5 steps in advance.

      Interesting times ahead.

      • Red Howell says:

        Written quickly so contains several grammatical and spelling errors and some omitted words but you get my drift.

      • Con Tester says:

        You may well be right that JZ has a few more really tricksy ploys up his prodigiously crafty sleeve, and I might well be too optimistic about him starting to feel the squeeze, but his recent behaviour smacks, to me, distinctly of backfired bluff. A few weeks ago, I fully expected him to suffer a bout of sudden-onset COVID-19, but that didn’t happen because it would be fairly easy to disprove if it was faked. If he jumps ship to another country, he will in effect be admitting culpability, apart from delivering an implicit acknowledgement of the seriousness of the allegations levelled against him, which, in turn, would burn his benefactors in the ANC and elsewhere. I think and hope we’re seeing the last few ungracious gasps of a ruinous, rapacious, narcissistic degenerate.

        But time will show who’s the wiser.

        • Red Howell says:

          Yep, fair comment indeed but I just cant see it as a bluff. Not that guy. Pleading the Vid would be too trite and obvious and, from recollection, he’s previously had a mystery lurgy which can only be treated in Cuba or it’s rich Uncle Russia. I just don’t see any other outs.. especially with the other Criminal Trial looming. Legal remedies have run out so its gotta be go to jail by design to achieve disruptive political chaos for a pre-agreed / determined reason or Run Jacob Run, look out for No. 1 and play the long game to eventual devious absolution.

          Anyhow, lets hope you’re right and this is a “last gasps of a fish out of water” situation which we will witness to its pitiful end. Sadly, I somehow doubt it.

          Apparently there are lots of empty and available residences near where Edward Snowden lives.

  • Chris Kirsten says:

    DCJ Zondo knows his man better than the rest. He knew the Concourt wil roast him over his “polite treatment” of Zuma. Doesn’t matter in the end game. Going directly to the Concourt cuts out a whole rash of skulduggery and subterfuge. Saves huge amounts of time before the commission’s deadline. Strong reminder of the Oriental maxim; Do not take revenge on those who would harm you, they are bent to destroy themselves. Zuma led himself into the trap, or was it his counsel? Then again, a fine is just a slap on the wrist from the Concourt. Zuma cannot borrow jail time. And again, how does anyone think Zondo became DCJ?

  • Hermann Funk says:

    The very first step – withdraw Zuma’s passport.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    One down, Ace next then Julius

  • Coen Gous says:

    I have already posted a reply to someone else, but, if DM, allows me, would like to to get a monkey of my back, which has worried me for some time. Possibly South Africa’s major online and printed news outlet, News24, a Naspers company, wrote 2 articles today following the Zondo’s proceedings today. One written by their editor, the other by their deputy-editor. Both are “for subscribers only”. Whilst I appreciate the need for new sources of revenue, “banning” these articles from general public readership, is pathetic. This issue is of utmost relevance and importance for all of South Africans, but News24 (including City Press) decided to keep it “in-house”, with the results that those that can’t afford the subscription of R75 a month, is denied of the news. Bur then off course, it is Naspers. And who would like to take them on.

  • Sergio CPT says:

    Jail the obnoxious scumbag, once and for all. Enough of this charade which is a disgrace to the country – he makes a mockery of everything. Amazing how he blames it all on a political witch hunt whilst he is the biggest exponent O of playing politics. Call his bluff and all those morons who follow him. Let them do their damnest – it will be a storm in a tea cup.

  • Scott Gordon says:

    is in contempt, arrest on sight one law for all !

  • Liesl van Wyk says:

    Is this the beginning of the end?
    The crime of high treason is defined as:
    “any conduct unlawfully committed by a person owing allegiance to a state with the intention of:
    • overthrowing the government of the Republic;
    • coercing the government by violence into any action or inaction;
    • violating, threatening or endangering the existence, independence or security of the Republic;
    • changing the constitutional structure of the Republic.”
    Tread softly, Mister J Zuma.

  • Bridget McCormick says:

    “There should be no rules for some and other rules for others. We are all subject to the same laws.”
    I think someone should tell Ace and co. this because clearly there’s a huge contingent of the current government ministers who do not believe this.

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