- As the Constitutional Court heard a contempt of court application against former president Jacob Zuma, lobby groups gathered outside the court.
- The commission wants Zuma to be jailed for defying a summons for his appearance before the Zondo commission.
- MKMVA spokesperson Carl Niehaus says jail time for the former president is unacceptable.
On Thursday morning, groups of people – some who supported former president Jacob Zuma and others who were against him – braced Johannesburg’s rainy weather and gathered outside of the Constitutional Court.
And while they were there, the apex court heard an urgent application to have Zuma declared in contempt of court for failing to appear and testify before the state capture inquiry.
There was a heavy presence of police and Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD). A police nyala was also on site.
Among the groups were people clad in ANC regalia, as well as members of Action SA and Move One Million.
News24 previously reported that the inquiry, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, said Zuma “sought to exploit his political status as the former president” by defying a Constitutional Court order that he should appear before it.
It added the former president needed to be jailed for contempt.
Among those present outside the court was uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus, who maintained that the action against Zuma was political.
Zark Lebatlang of ActionSA in the City of Johannesburg said they were outside the court to send a strong message to South Africans that one of the party’s core values was the rule of law.
“We believe all citizens must adhere to the supreme laws of the country. We are looking closely to this particular outcome to say whatever outcome that is going to be delivered today, we are in support of the rule [of law] and that everyone must be held accountable whether [or not] you are a former state president like … Zuma,” Lebatlang said.
He added that the party rejected Zuma’s call for Zondo’s recusal as the inquiry chairperson.
Lebatlang said: “In fact … Zuma must be stripped of his powers. If he decides to not appear in front of the Zondo commission and this court gives an outcome against him, the current president, [Cyril] Ramaphosa, must strip him and show South Africans that the rule of law must stand in the country.”
Zuma’s supporters charged that if he was found in contempt, that would cause instability in the country. But Lebatlang said that was not genuine. He called on Zuma’s supporters to stop being “disingenuous” and using political spinning for their agendas.
Niehaus said they were at the court as members and as ordinary members of the ANC in support of Zuma.
He said they believed Zuma’s constitutional rights were being undermined and he was not being given an opportunity to deal with Zondo’s “bias”.
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“We find that this urgent application by Mr Justice Zondo and the commission is a further indication of the biasness of Mr Justice Zondo and the commission that he chairs.”
He said Zuma was being targeted and that the hearing was not a matter of law but political target.
Niehaus said the outcome of the proceedings would be positive and added that if the proceedings went against Zuma, it would lead to protests.
He said a jail sentence was unacceptable and that such a penalty would lead to further divisions in the governing party.
“We really hope that cooler heads will prevail, [and that] that situation will not eventually emerge because that situation will inevitably lead to upheaval and social instability,” he said.
Lehlaga Sebake, who was also at the demonstration at the court, said he was there as an ordinary citizen to support Zuma.
He said he believed Zuma’s rights were being violated, according to his own analysis.
Sebake said the country was in political crisis and that he believed Zuma was a target because of his “political ideologies”.
“The man has never said he doesn’t want to appear at the Zondo commission. He said he wants Deputy Chief Justice Raymond [Zondo] to recuse himself. He requested a platform which he feels won’t be biased [against] him.
“Why are we not asking the question: ‘Why is Zondo not recusing himself?'”