First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Jacob Zuma draws from the patriarch’s playbook as he...

South Africa


Jacob Zuma draws from the patriarch’s playbook as he insults Judge Sisi Khampepe

Illustrative image | Sources: Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images) / Jacob Zuma. (Photo: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg via Getty Images) / Judge Khampepe hands over documents at the Constitutional Court on 29 June 2021, after giving a ruling on whether the former president should be punished for defying a summons to appear at the Zondo Commission. (Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko)

The former president calls the Zondo Commission, which he set up, a ‘slaughterhouse’.

Jacob Zuma drew from the patriarch’s classic book of tricks when they meet a strong woman who will not put up with their nonsense: call her “emotional and angry”.

To wit: the midnight statement from the Jacob G Zuma Foundation ends: “In conclusion, the Jacob Zuma Foundation denounces Judge Kampepe (sic) judgment as judicially emotional and angry and not consistent with our Constitution.” Never mind the punctuation, they even spell the judge’s surname incorrectly. It’s Khampepe, by the way. 

The patriarchs from the so-called radical economic transformation (RET) forces are out on the attack. An image of acting chief justice Khampepe greeting President Cyril Ramaphosa is doing the social media rounds to build digital disrespect for the woman who delivered a judgment on 29 June that stands for the rule of law like a sentinel.

It’s typical, really. Zuma’s minions may claim him as a great feminist leader, but is he? Ask his wives – two of whom left him in acrimonious circumstances that suggest relationships that were less than equal. One of his wives was “banished” or cast out – how feudal is that? He had a relationship with the daughter of a friend and made promises he did not keep.  

The story of Khwezi, another daughter of a friend, and the woman who brought rape charges against the former president, is one we must never forget. Those charges failed but in the course of the trial, Khwezi was treated like a witch in Salem. Read Redi Tlhabi’s book for the full story of the life of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo.   

So, it is completely unsurprising that Zuma has lodged a gendered attack on Khampepe and refused to deal with any of the substantive questions raised by the judgment. Why did he and his lawyers not take up her April offer to file an affidavit, which the Constitutional Court judges offered? He could have requested a stay of his trial. Why did he launch digital missile after missile at the judiciary in general and at the Constitutional Court in particular rather than appear before the court? He could have done so in January when the order was made compelling him to appear before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, which he set up.

Today (1 July), he calls that commission a “slaughterhouse” and an “administrative agency” when in fact it is a judicial commission of inquiry ordered into being by himself. This is a kind of madness repeated without self-reflection by his minions. Judge Raymond Zondo has bent over backwards to accommodate Zuma so that he can be heard by it. Scores of letters have been sent informing him that he has been named in testimony; numerous summonses have been sent; criminal contempt charges have been laid (which team Zuma conveniently forget) and back-channel efforts have been made to get him to appear and to substantively answer questions on the 40-odd areas of evidence which implicate or name him. He did not, and is now about to stage a political drama in which he will portray himself as the victim once again.

One of the many beautiful bits of the scaffolding of our Constitutional Court is that it builds in the right of dissent and it makes the debate of the judges transparent by publishing minority judgments. Judge Leona Theron’s dissenting judgment, acceded to by Judge Chris Jafta, is a piece of scholarship about how to ensure the constitutional rights of a person found guilty. But it is a minority view – Zuma, who now maligns many of the Constitutional Court judges he appointed, wants us to only see the minority judgment and not the one that now stands as law. It is nonsense. DM


Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or sign in if you are already an Insider.

Everybody has an opinion but not everyone has the knowledge and the experience to contribute meaningfully to a discussion. That’s what we want from our members. Help us learn with your expertise and insights on articles that we publish. We encourage different, respectful viewpoints to further our understanding of the world. View our comments policy here.

All Comments 43

  • I would not be surprised if ACJ Khampepe was emotional and angry. What Mr Zuma has done to South Africa has made very many people living in South Africa emotional and angry. If South Africa is really serious about ridding the country of patriarchy, then the appropriateness of lobola in this day and age should be considered as a matter of urgency, so called ‘culture’ notwithstanding.

  • Uf it is a slaughterhouse may Zuma and those poncy lawyers be the first sacrifices. A classic case of the King has no clothes.

  • Perhaps jz’s legal ‘advisors’ should also shoulder some of the blame? How can anyone in good conscience defend this lowlife?

  • At the end of all this Zuma will find that the judge’s credibility is intact while he has stripped himself of all dignity.

  • In a post on Media24, the criminal Andile Lungisa, calls for a national shutdown following the Concourt judgement. His exact words: “To hell with the decision”, cloupled with a host of insults to the concourt judges. In Afrikaans there is a saying: “Hier kom groot kak” (here comes big ++++). Seems like the country is on the verge of total lawlessness, something that has been in the making for a long time. Unless Ramaphosa and his gang of cronies, with the police, stands firm, we are going to see absolute chaos, that wil;l make the protest in Swaziland look like a school picnic. Perhaps all this is needed, to bring the real ANC into the open. What will they do? What will they do? Stood back, and they are doomed! All this whilst a pandemic is raging ahead. The country might just be close to a civil war.

    • I think it will be a storm in a teacup, his supporters may cause some Kak but do you really see marches in all of the major cities supporting him ?
      Workers downing tools ,religious leaders preaching from pulpits, commentators urging mass defiance.
      Everyone has enough in their own lives to worry about this guy
      Even Kebby the cook was backtracking on TV the other night as to what he would do. These guys get paid by the organisation and can not afford to be off the gravy train.
      Expect the usual suspects to beat their chests and wail to the winds
      Society and law enforcement must be prepared but in my view , JZ ,S ship has sailed

      • Good response Ian… but time will tell. Me thinks that such is the support for Zuma (including the premier of KZN) that one should not discard any possibility. Marikana murders started small, just a minor protest. Trumps speech to supporters resulted in thousands storming the Capitol. Whilst Zuma’s support has declined amongst ANC supporters, it is still around 10 – 15%. And those people are angry, despite their personal worries in life, for which they now blame anybody that needs to be blamed. An angry dog is a dangerous dog!

      • I agree Zuma and his supporters are a spent force. The country will move on and these artefacts of the past will become dust and blow away.

      • The Zuma family however are doing all in their power to prevent uBaba from being arrested. Further note Dudu Zuma’s twitter posts that should, I believe, result in a charge of incitement to public violence, Edward’s statement that he will die before anyone tries to arrest his father and the loony MK Vets guarding the Zuma compound making threatening noises (who is actually paying these clowns). His family are using the same tacky excuse of the judiciary being captured by WMC which could stoke the fires of the EFF and BFLF brigade who could cause some “kak”. I guess the next few days will reveal exactly how much support uBaba actually has.

  • Dear Mr Zuma – Go to jail; go directly to jail. Do not collect R200 billion rands. As for those braindead enough to want “to die for you” – please all line up for a ritual hara kiri.

  • I fail to see a gendered statement by the Zuma Foundation, at least as it is quoted here. It could have applied to a male judge as well.
    Another example of wokeness going the crazy way. Everything is not about YOU, womxn, much as you’d like to believe that.

    • You won’t see what you don’t want to see. There are certain attacks misogynists levy against women which reveal their misogyny. Have you heard a male judge being referred to as “emotional”? Likewise, your comment about “womxn” wanting to believe everything is about her. Time to move into the 21st century John.

      • The word “emotional” was at the very least attributed ambiguously. I can’t see – as I said – in the quotation from the Zuma foundation that the female judge was being specifically referred to in her capacity as a woman; it could have been attributed to the judgement itself.
        And no, it is not all about women; even here in the 21st century I find half the world consists of men too, and I’m sick of kneejerk reactions like Haffajee’s.

  • It is not just a patriarchal attitude … but the arrogance, cynicism and downright contempt for most women, that is on display. Remember the ‘shut-up’ remark in open court directed at a female colleague ? (… and the JSC’s failure to do anything about it.) It is part of that uber machismo aura and uncontrolled testosterone that is at work ! The lashings of psychopathy that go with it, are a sight to behold. BUT … as the author correctly points out …. ” completely unsurprising ” ! TEXTBOOK response some would opine.

  • What an absolute embarrassment and disgrace! Agreed, “How can anyone in good conscience defend this lowlife?” ACJ Khampepe would’ve done well to give him 15 hundred, 15 million, 15 and 15 years…

          • Spot on Ferial. I concur with the spirit of your piece and many of the comments. What always annoys me with Zuma’s gaslighting is the attention it is paid on the front page, as it were. Yes, he was our president, it’s a dark moment in our history and we should be careful about how we re-member it. Mmatshilo Motsei’s The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court was a voice crying in the wilderness. At the launch women packed the Women’s Jail at Con Hill. Testimonies of sexual crimes came out, not least in the ANC camps. Yet this moment of resistance and affirmation is rarely referenced. Toxic victim mentality has been seen and challenged before. As a nation we are willy nilly forgetting where we come from, despite the plethora of news platforms. Sorry that was a mouthful.

  • Zuma…like Trump is a misogynist and considers himself above the law….. followers of both are uneducated, have a low IQ and were obviously not breastfed! Lol!
    If their behaviour wasn’t so destructive, and in their own self interest then you could only but laugh at the antics of both these men…

  • Wikipedia —Originally, a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family.
    Strange use of the term, they certainly are not part of my extended family

  • Jacob Zuma and his coterie are lashing out,as usual, at anybody who dares to stand in their way- this time it happens to be the acting Chief Justice who delivered an entirely rational and well thought out majority verdict. So much for Zuma’s so often expressed desire for a day in court!

  • The poor spelling is mere evidence that Zuma’s more eloquent multi-page tirades could not possibly have come from the same pen.

  • I trust there is a counter campaign.. The truth is who would want Zuma’s respect, it would immediately throw one under suspicion, while his insults…. 🥇🌻

  • I have to see the humour in referring to a judgment of the Constitutional Court as “unconstitutional”. All of us have opinions about everything, but there is a body, the apex court of the land, that gets to decide what is, and what is not, constitutional. Like the judgment or hate it, it is by definition constitutional. It is amazing that the former Number One has been sentenced to prison for contempt of court. His lawyers no doubt expected a slap on the wrist (as, in truth, has become quite normal for contempt of court by many judges in the High Court) and no doubt advised him that he had little to fear. If I were he I would be contesting their bills! I am very impressed – not for the first time – with the seriousness with which the CC takes its vital role of safeguarding the Constitution.

  • The whole of South Africa is “emotional and angry” over this man. As the above points to, this man is the worst of humanity.

  • Such utter woke nonsense. If a male had read the judgment there would in all likelihood have been images of the male judge greeting Ramaphosa on digital media. Ms Haffejee, you should be ashamed of yourself for continuing to stoke the gender fires. But I suppose these rants sell newspapers and I encourage these by reading such articles. Next time I’ll stop sooner and turn the page to something more worthy of my attention.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted