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‘We ask for his punishment’: Zondo commission wants Zuma jailed for failing to appear

Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former president Jacob Zuma.

Thulani Mbele/Gallo Images, Sowetan

  • The Constitutional Court has reserved judgment in the state capture commission’s contempt of court application against former president Jacob Zuma.
  • The commission wants Zuma to be imprisoned for defying a ruling by the Constitutional Court in which he was ordered to appear and testify before the inquiry. 
  • It says Zuma should not be fined or given a suspended sentence. 

The state capture inquiry has abandoned all hope that former president Jacob Zuma will appear before it. Instead, it wants him to be punished for defying a Constitutional Court ruling that ordered him to appear before it to testify.

“We do not ask for his appearance. We ask for his punishment,” advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said in the court on Thursday.

“The spectacle we fear is the spectacle of Mr Zuma continuing to run rings around the commission. Because, he is brought today, he doesn’t speak. He is brought the other day, and the entire thing degenerates into a circus,” he added.

READ | Zuma doubles down on decision to snub Zondo commission

It took Ngcukaitobi just over an hour to argue his case.

Zuma has failed to file a notice to indicate whether he intends to abide by the court’s decision or oppose the relief the commission seeks.

Ngcukaitobi said the commission did not want the former president to be fined or to receive a suspended sentence. It wants him to face direct imprisonment of two years.

“A fine is out of the question because we have no knowledge of Mr Zuma’s financial position. He had not come to the Constitutional Court to say he’d rather pay a fine,” the advocate submitted.

Ngcukaitobi also said the former president’s conduct “threatens the entire constitutional order,” adding:

“This court has had many contempt of court applications but none come close to this case.”

The court itself has “become the target of Mr Zuma’s angry, threatening and, quite frankly, provocative tirades”, he added.

He also argued that Zuma had made public his utterances against the court and that “those utterances are unjustified, false and malicious.” 

Zuma is accused of repeatedly defying an inquiry summons for his appearance, walking out of the commission on 19 November 2020, and making false corruption claims against the judiciary, News24 previously reported. 

AS IT HAPPENED | Zuma leaves Zondo commission without permission, in defiance of summons

“We would say, what you should take into account here [is] to impose two years’ [imprisonment]’, which is a serious penalty.”

He added that the court should consider Zuma’s seniority as a former president as well as his political standing and influence in society.

“That weighs a great deal,” he said.

READ | Magashule reveals the outcome of Zuma’s meeting with ANC top 6

“You should also take into account the forceful and public nature of his disobedience.”

He was asked what the impact would be if Zuma succeeded in his review of Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s refusal to recuse himself as the inquiry chairperson. But he responded that it did not mean that Zuma should not comply with the Constitutional Court’s order.

The advocate also told the justices that no one was entitled to “insult, falsely and untruthful[ly],” the Constitutional Court.

He said: 

Everyone is entitled to say the judges are wrong. Everyone is entitled to say that the judgments do not follow the law. But there is no one who is entitled to say that the judges abandoned their green robes. No one is entitled to say that some judges have received money from Mr [Cyril] Ramaphosa. No one is entitled to say that the judgment of the Constitutional Court mimics the posture that had been adopted by the commission, which is designed to make unfair judgments against Mr Zuma.

He added that the comments were not criticism or a debate, but “plain insults”.

“They are false, they are unfounded, they cannot be justified. Mr Zuma is not even here to complain about his freedom of speech. He is quite happy that he has made his remarks because they fall in the category of political campaign,” Ngcukaitobi added.

Judgment has been reserved.

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