South Africa


Jacob Zuma fires back at Constitutional Court, claiming emergence of a ‘judicial dictatorship’

Jacob Zuma fires back at Constitutional Court, claiming emergence of a ‘judicial dictatorship’
May 24, 2019. Former president Jacob Zuma in Pietermaritzburg high court. (Picture: Thuli Dlamini)

Former president Jacob Zuma has hit back at the judiciary saying he will not subject himself to ‘an oppressive and unjust court system’. Zuma’s blistering attack on the Constitutional Court comes only hours after the State Capture Commission of Inquiry asked the court to have him jailed for contempt of court.

Ex-president Jacob Zuma launched a brutal attack on the judiciary on Thursday, criticising the court system and saying a “judicial dictatorship” appears to be emerging in the country. This was according to an eight-page statement by the former president, which was shared on Twitter by his daughter, Duduzile Zuma-Sambudla, late on Thursday evening. 

“I strongly agree with the public sentiment that is starting to see the emergence of a judicial dictatorship in South Africa,” said Zuma in the statement.  

“We have in South Africa today the gradual entrenchment of the counter-majoritarian problem. Unfortunately, when people rise up against this judicial corruption, our young democracy will unravel and many democratic gains will be lost in the ashes that will be left of what used to be our democratic state,” the statement read.

Zuma’s statement comes after arguments were heard in the Constitutional Court on Thursday, in which the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture asked the court to declare Zuma in contempt after he had defied a court order to attend and testify at the commission. 

The commission requested on Thursday, that the court send Zuma to prison for a duration of two years, rather than impose a suspended sentence to get the former president to cooperate.

“The Commission has asked for a declaration of contempt and a two-year sentence – it has not asked for a fine or a suspended sentence,” said Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC, in the contempt of court application heard by the Court. 

Zuma had previously defied the Constitutional Court’s order in January and had failed to appear in the Constitutional Court, on 15 February as required. 

“Ordinarily and if I had faith that a South African court would consider my submissions, I would present them to the Constitutional Court,” Zuma said in his statement on Thursday. 

“However, my experience is that many South African judges, including those of the Constitutional Court can no longer bring an open mind to cases involving me as they have done in awarding legal costs against me in a case I had not participated in.”

The Constitutional Court has “allowed itself to be abused” in this regard, despite his “repeated warnings” that continue to go “unheard”, Zuma said. 

According to Zuma, the Constitutional Court was prejudicing and violating his constitutional rights. 

In his statement, the ex-president cried foul at the inclusion of Acting Justice Dhaya Pillay — who was appointed to the Constitutional Court in an acting capacity in February 2021 — accusing her of bias and saying the decision was “curious if one considers her historical hostility and insults against” him. 

Justice Pillay’s inclusion in the matter “demonstrates the crises engulfing our judiciary,” said Zuma. 

Zuma added that Justice Pillay had insulted him — previously describing him as “a wedge driver with a poisonous tongue”.

Zuma reiterated that he was prepared to go to prison rather than adhere to judges and a court system that he believed to be biased.  

He said: “All I said is that I am not afraid of going to jail as I was not under the apartheid system. However, I will not subject myself to an oppressive and unjust court system. They can put my physical body behind prison doors; however, my spirit is free to speak against the injustice of the imprisonment.”

Zuma’s lawyer, Eric Mabuza was contacted for comment but had told Daily Maverick that he is unable to comment on the former president’s statement and will not make any further comments on the situation. 

Professor Susan Booysen, a director at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection and author of Dominance and Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma, said Zuma’s “vicious attack from [a] position of back-against-the-wall” is an attempt to defy the Constitutional Court’s “core principles”.

“His essential strategy here is to make the judiciary an accused, and make the Constitutional Court an accused in his tirade,” Booysen told Daily Maverick

Booysen described Zuma’s move as his “last line of defence” against the judiciary. 

In the aftermath, the Constitutional Court will have to find an appropriate way to handle an attack of this nature, and “persuasively” rebut Zuma’s claims, said Booysen. 

The Constitutional Court reserved judgment on Thursday. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Geoff Young says:

    Oh please. Since when is an ideology a legal defence? Zuma is so obviously trying to blur the very distinct and unmovable line between the court of popular opinion and the Constitutional Court. Just send this “vile buffoon” to jail now already, any backlash will become a whimper in a day or two.

  • Gerhard Pretorius says:

    When still holding office JZ is on record stating that (1) he appoint judges, and (2) he would like to have his day in court. He-he-he. The very same judges are now denying him his rights and cannot even convince him to state his case. Only one right remains. The right to wear an orange overall.

  • Con Tester says:

    Zuma is provocatively daring the ConCourt judges to send him to jail.

    Call his bluff and bundle him off in an orange onesie, I say. And do the same to any and all law enforcement officials who fail or refuse to execute the order.

    • Ediodaat For Today says:

      I pray he lives with with the axe hanging over his head until he dies at 120. And each day he gets up wondering if they are coming to fetch him today. That has to be worse than closure.

  • Marianne McKay says:

    Enough already. The entire country is completely sick of you, JZ. As your dear friend Dali said so pithily: Shut up.

  • Johan Buys says:

    “ judicial dictatorship”

    That is a new. All credit to the 22y old in Zupta’s PR agency that imagineered that one!

    It would be SO embarrassing if Zupta created the commission and selected Zondo. Imagine!

  • James Grinyer says:

    If he wants to go to prison, let him.
    He can then think about how he has damaged this country and how he deprived the poor people of houses and jobs because he and his cronies robbed the coffers of the country. He should hang his head in shame for what he did to this country.

  • Sergio CPT says:

    What a mampara of the highest order! He steals SA blind and bankrupts it under his watch and believes there are no consequences and he doesn’t have to account to the nation. Why, because he is zuma. He then claims a conspiracy and a vendetta by all against him. Nothing but an evil demented thief!

  • Smudger Smiff says:

    If JZ escapes a term in prison, there are many other ANC crooks who will give the courts and the constitution the finger.
    If that should happen the game is up for Zondo and his Commission.
    A giant step toward anarchy

  • Ger pig says:

    What a farce! I’d love to know who’s running his communications… Anyone know if it’s one of our mainstream PR firms, or just an individual low life?

    • J.F. Aitchison says:

      Hear! Hear! I’ve not read the whole 8 page statement posted on Twitter. However after reading the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs of this article, I find it very difficult to believe that Zuma himself wrote that statement. Especially after his giggling, puerile performance when in Parliament

  • Ediodaat For Today says:

    Zuma did not have a problem with The Commission or Judge Zondo for two years. In his first appearance front of Zondo none of these issues were raised. Now that he stares the gun barrel in the face his tactic changed. He wants you to follow him so you forget the recent past.

    • J.F. Aitchison says:

      Recently on Judgement Date with Judge Dennis Davis #51, retired Constitutional Judge Zak Jacoob stated that there is nothing new with criticism of the judiciary, not only here but thought world history. This usually happens as a last resort when the criticiser(s) have their backs against the wall.

  • John Hughes says:

    Zuma played his deck of cards since 1990….. Lack of foresight, fear, inability of the honest and integral to kick him into touch then, has resulted in what we have today! “A leopard NEVER changes its SPOTS”! And the billions rand arms deal signed off by ICON at onset new dawn! Shameful! Reflect!!

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    If judge Pillay’s apparent observations are not a pertinent & accurate confirmation of what and who JZ thinks he is … nothing will ever be. The unvarnished truth is sometimes hard to bear! ‘Listening’ to his offensive and gross tirades against the judiciary are part of deflection of real issue!

  • Peter Worman says:

    I doubt Zuma could find his way round a Spaza Shop unaided. These are clearly the words of his lawyer who himself doesn’t seem too bright

  • Johan Buys says:

    at what point must a service provider reconsider their services to clients based on public facts?
    Who provides Zuma with:
    – banking
    – legal
    – accounting
    – auditing
    – tax (hehehehe)
    – advisory

    Name them!

    Unfair? I presume these firms and banks would all be proud of their client…

  • David Mark says:

    Judicial Dictatorship.. i.e. the rule of law? Sounds fine with me.

  • Petrus Prinsloo says:

    The on place you have to give him credit is he REALLY tests our courts and legal system. He is playing the system way too well and has exposed a lot of holes in how it works.

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